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What to do when you catch your child lying?

Last Updated on 9 September 2023

Lying Child

It is common to experience a flood of emotions when you first catch your child in a lie. Lying hurts and it is normal to feel angry, disappointed, or betrayed. In fact, you may even feel afraid about what will happen next if the lying continues.

Before you respond, it is important that you give yourself a bit of time to calm down. While it is common to take lying personally and feel upset, you will not be able to respond effectively if you are overwhelmed with emotions.

The next time you catch your child lying, follow these three steps:

Understand what lying is (and what it isn’t)
Every situation is different, but kids and adults often use lying to get out of difficult situations. Lying can also be used as a way of avoiding trouble or trying to get away with not following the rules. Sometimes, lies are about trying to fit in or trying to make someone feel better. Once you view things in that perspective, you will realise that kids who use lying as a way to solve their problems are probably not thinking about being hurtful.

Focus on the issue that they are lying about
When you catch your child lying, try to keep your focus on the situation at hand. For instance, if your child lied about revising for his exam and consequently gets a failing grade, focus first on the plan to bring that grade up. You can point it out that lying didn't solve his problem and in fact, it made it worse. But getting sidetracked into an argument about whether or not you can trust him in future could take you away from the important conversation that you need to have with your child.

Rebuild trust
It may take some time to mend your broken trust with your child. You can let your child know that things might be different for a while, but keep your focus on helping your child learn more effective ways to handle problematic situations. When your child shows you that he can make better choices, trust is rebuilt and your child will gain more independence.

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