Parenting K-6 Kids/Lying


Hi, my oldest son is 6 1/2 and ever since I can remember we've  stressed the importance of telling the truth and not telling lies. This was a very big thing in my childhood growing up and I never told my parents a lie.  Lately I keep catching him in lies and it's driving me crazy!  They are not even important ones but little things about how someone told him something when I know they didn't or lying about something he did wrong.  What can I do to correct this behavior because lying will not be tolerated in our household. Should I be concerned with this behavior or is it somewhat typical at this age? Any advice you can give me would be much appreciated. I should also mention that he can be stubborn and challenging at times (and jealous of his younger brother, he's a good/obedient boy. Thanks! Julie


Lying is one of several "survival" skills all humans use in daily life. In general, the strategy is used to protect or preserve self-esteem, defend against real or perceived threats from others, to gain ascendancy or "rank" or to avoid provoking demeaning others (as in provoking punishment from a parent or demeaning a grandparent by truthfully describing deficiencies of aging, for example). Being totally honest in all verbal interactions is incompatible w/ peaceful existence or supportive relationships.

So a parent's goal must be to teach children to weigh each potential diversion of truth by 2 measures before acting: 1) What antecedent conditions have led to considering a lie and 2) what are the desired consequences of the lie.

This can sound complicated, especially when discussing the issue with a 6 year old, but it can be distilled into 2 questions: What made you consider lying and what did you hope to accomplish with the lie? A child needs to learn to analyse these "filters" of lying before proceeding.

Parents can give simple examples of answers to each question - some examples of appropriate goals (like not hurting someone's feelings) and inappropriate goals (like making a parent think something was done or not done when it wasn't or was actually done - leading to the consequence of being held untrustworthy and undeserving of more freedom.

To make the process more vivid for a child, "make believe" scenarios can be presented to the child as antecedent events and the child asked to decide what an appropriate goal would be and whether a "lie" is the best way to achieve it. The child might be offered a reward for an appropriate strategy, while rewards can be withheld when an inappropriate strategy is chosen. The learning experience can be intensified when there are old enough siblings at home and rewards given to those articulating an appropriate strategy (sibling rivalry for rewards).

In short, when children are faced with situations requiring at least a softening of truth in order to achieve an appropriate goal, they can develop strategies to achieve such goals without impinging on trustworthiness.

Hope this is helpful.  

Parenting K-6 Kids

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Alan M. Davick, M.D.


As a Johns Hopkins trained Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician with 40 years experience, I have focused on distinguishing underlying willful, poor choice-making (like Oppositional-Defiant Disorder)from innate "conditions" masquerading as willful misbehavior (like ADHD, Autistic Spectrum Disorders, Bipolar Disorders, Cerebral Palsy, Developmental Delay, Epilepsy and "Behavioral" Seizures). Though I cannot act as a formal medical or psychiatric consultant, I will answer queries with generic information and suggestions for discussion readers may direct to their own professional advisers, including physicians, psychologists and educators.


I trained at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Pediatrics, Child Psychiatry and Behavioral-Developmental Pediatrics. Thereafter, I've continuously practiced Behavioral-Developmental Pediatrics and have taught the principles mentioned above to parents, colleagues and professional groups.

American Academy of Pediatrics SW Florida Sportsman's Association Florida Writers Association

First Travel Meds - 1987; Managing Misbehavior in Kids: The Mis/Kidding Process; Bullying: Rarely Travels Alone; Discipline Your Child (without going to jail); AD(H)D: What Every Parent Needs to Know

Undergraduate - NY University WSC Arts & Science, NYC 1959-63 - B.A. Medical Degree- State University of NY, Upstate Med Ctr, Syracuse 1963-67 - M.D. Internship/Residency - Johns Hopkins Hosp/University - Baltimore, MD 1967-70 Major, US Army Medical Corps, Chief Pediatric Section, Savannah, GA - 1970-72 Sp. Fellow, Dept Child Psychiatry - Johns Hopkins Hospital/University - 1972-73 Practicing Behavioral-Developmental Pediatrician, lecturer, author - to date Currently practicing Child Psychiatry - SalusCareFlorida, Fort Myers, FL.

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