Written by Doctor G

My Son Lies without Shame!

When my almost 6 year old lies to me about something that either happened at school or about something his teacher said (ie. My teacher told me to bring $40 to school to by school supplies, or my teacher made me clean the toilets, and YES those are real whoppers he has told in the past few weeks) I offer to call his teacher to check, or talk to her after school to verify that he has his information correct. He then gets annoyed with me when I pick up the phone to call and he tells the truth before I get a number dialed. And if he didn’t stop me from calling, I would still talk to the teacher to make sure his information is valid. He had me believing for 2 days that his teacher made him clean the urinals (he said it was a class job, and did so convincingly) and then I spoke to his teacher about it and she said she would NEVER make her kindergarteners clean toilets. I always make sure that my son knows that I can find proof, even if I have to fake a phone call when I know he is lying just to get him to tell the truth. But I’m going to use that one until he catches on, maybe another 3 times or so, until he realizes I don’t actually have his teacher’s phone number. After that, I will just ask the teacher when I take my son to school. I would like to know actions to take for a 5-6 year old. My son isn’t embarrassed at school and he does tell a lot of fibs. How do I break him of it?

Joy, on Yahoo

Joy, thank you for leaving this question in the comments of “Lie to Mom? Suffer the Consequences!”

First, a developmental note:  Not all 5 year olds yet distinguish between truth (that actually happened) and a story they made up in their head about true people in a true situation.  Part of transitioning to a concrete mindset is learning where the boundaries of fact and fiction are.  Many kindergarten and 1st grade children are still learning that ALL the elements of a story have to be true for the story to be true.

Since you call these “fibs” and not lies, it’s possible that you are expressing your uncertainty that he understands what he is doing.

So the first thing to do is to talk to your son and his teacher about learning this skill.  Language arts curriculum in first grade usually addresses this.

What if your son has mastered fact vs fiction, and is now working on mastering lying?  Well then you need to work with him on the concept of trust.  Since this is a such a concrete age, you need to link your trust in him to lots of day-to-day situations.

If you can trust him, then so many situations are easier or more fun for him.  If you can trust him, then you don’t have to smell his hands to make sure he washed after he used the bathroom.  If you can trust him, then he can play a little longer in the tub, because you know he’ll go right to bed after like he promised.  If you can trust him, then he can have playdates at other kids’ houses.  If you can trust him, you don’t have to be in the same room as he is whenever he plays with another child – in this way he will have a lot more freedom of fun stuff to go do around the house.

In this way, you can appeal to his practical nature.  If he does not tell you the truth, you will not know when to believe him, and his opportunities for fun will be much restricted in very clear ways.

Last note:  I agree with another of the comments, you need to check up on your son in ways that are honest.  Meaning you need to use the means you really have to check up on him, so that he doesn’t figure out that you are lying.  Whether or not parents ever need to lie to their kids is a different article, but you cannot teach honesty without honesty.


What has anyone else tried in order to teach children not to lie?

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2 thoughts on “My Son Lies without Shame!”

  1. Having this same issue with my 7 year old – who is so convincing, if I wasn’t sure she was lying, I would probably believe her. We had an incident which was obvious and she went on for days swearing she didn’t – even to the point of agreeing with there might be a ghost in the house…I will definitely have another trust talk with her and I have a feeling it won’t be the last…

    1. You are absolutely right! This is by no means a one-time-fix kind of problem. Lying, in all its various sneaky forms, is something our children will try over and over again as they try to shape reality to their wishes. Just as a 2 year old will throw a tantrum and so will a 14 year old, our kids will try old tricks at new ages with new twists. Though a tantrum looks remarkably similar through the ages… In any case, you are doing the right thing. Be consistent and stand strong! She will be better off for it. Have another cup of coffee?

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