If you notice dishonesty in your child, teach her why it's wrong.

How to Explain the Effects of Lying to Children

by Kathryn Hatter

If you’re hearing some embellished stories, white lies and downright whoppers from your child, help her learn the negative effects of lying. By age 4, children know the difference between telling the truth and lying, according to the Scholastic website. As your child grows, you can help her grasp the consequences that can occur when she doesn't tell the truth. Once you teach your child why lying is wrong, you can encourage the correct behavior.

Express your feelings about a lie to your child, notes the University of California Santa Barbara Early Childhood Care & Education Services. For example, you might tell your child that you feel hurt, surprised, dismayed or disappointed by the lie. By sharing your feelings, you illustrate an immediate consequence of lying.

Discuss the consequences of lying with your youngster, advises the Scholastic website. For example, you might explain, “When you catch someone lying, it’s hard to know when he's telling the truth and when he's not. When you lie, it makes it hard for me to trust you. Every time you tell me something, I have to wonder whether or not it's true. I don’t like not knowing for sure whether you're telling me the truth.”

Talk about how lying hurts your child, too. Explain that telling lies makes it hard for people to feel close to each other, notes educator and preacher Jonathan McClintock. You might say, “If you lie to me, even if I don’t know you lied, you know you didn’t tell the truth. The lie hurts both of us because it keeps us from feeling close to each other.”

Provide positive incentives for your child to choose telling the truth, suggests the Raising Children Network. You might say, “We tell the truth in our family because it helps keep everyone safe and happy. If you tell me the truth, I will always reward your choice to be honest.”


  • Avoid lecturing to your child about honesty, because it’s likely that he will stop paying attention to a lengthy explanation, cautions social worker Janet Lehman, with the Empowering Parents website. Instead, keep your conversation short and concise for best results.


  • Keep in mind the difference between telling tall tales and lying to conceal misbehavior or mistakes. Before the age of about 5, children do not have a firm grasp of reality and fantasy. This lack of understanding may lead to untrue stories. By the time your child reaches 7 or 8, she should understand the differences between reality and fantasy as well as right and wrong.

About the Author

Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator, as well as an accomplished gardener, quilter, crocheter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator. As a regular contributor to Natural News, many of Hatter's Internet publications focus on natural health and parenting. Hatter has also had publication on home improvement websites such as Redbeacon.

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