How to Explain the Effects of Lying to Children: 8 Steps
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Preschoolers also have difficulty separating fantasy from reality, so what seems like a lie to you might only be harmless exaggeration.

When you ask your preschooler who spilled the milk or left marks on the wall with crayons, she's likely to answer "Not me!" Young children tell lies for many reasons, mostly as a means to avoid trouble or punishment. Preschoolers also have difficulty separating fantasy from reality, so what seems like a lie to you might only be harmless exaggeration. If your preschooler doesn't know the difference between exaggeration and lying, she needs you to teach her. Explaining the consequences of lying will help your child understand that no, it's not okay to give the cat a haircut and blame it on the brother.


  1. 1
    Explain to your preschooler that lies are unacceptable to you and others. Tell your preschooler that lies hurt people and can make them feel sad or angry.
  2. 2
    Have your child make amends for the action leading to the lie, if possible. For example, if she broke a glass and lied about it, have her clean up the mess. Avoid giving her the same punishment for both the lie and the action that led to the lie.
  3. 3
    Tell your preschooler that when he lies, other people might not trust him to do the right thing in the future. For instance, you might say, "You stole your friend's toy and then told him you didn't have it. He may not let you play with the toy next time if he can't trust you not to take it."
  4. 4
    Tell your child that the truth can protect him or others from accidents. For example, tell your preschooler, "Please tell me if you took the scissors. If you play with the scissors alone, you can get hurt. Give them back to me and we'll use them together."
  5. 5
    Read books about honesty to your child to help her understand the effects of lying. "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," for example, will teach her that if she repeatedly lies about something, no one will believe her when she finally tells the truth.
  6. 6
    Ask your preschooler how he would feel if someone told her a lie. Explain that other people feel bad, too, when they are lied to.
  7. 7
    Tell your preschooler how you plan to handle her lies. If you decide to punish her, make sure that she's aware of the consequences. If your child knows a lie will result in you taking away a favorite toy, she'll be less likely to fib.
  8. 8
    Set an example of honesty for your child. For example, if a cashier forgets to ring up an item, remind her to add it to your bill. Your preschooler will learn how to be truthful by watching your actions.


  • Children younger than 3 can't really understand consequences given because of their behavior.Give your preschooler a chance to confess to a mistake so he doesn't need to lie about it. For example, rather than asking, "Did you break this glass?", you could say, "Uh-oh, this glass broke. I wonder how that happened? Let's clean up this mess."


  • Never call your child a liar. This may cause your preschooler to believe that since he's a liar, he might as well lie all the time. The "liar" label can also damage your child's self-esteem.

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Categories: Education and Communications

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