How Do I Help My Child Stop Lying?

by John Dalrymple

Black father with son covering mouth with hand on sofa

It’s hard not to smile the first time you watch your toddler reporting that he didn’t eat any cookies while chocolate chips are smeared all over his face and hands. But it’s not a laughing matter. Lying is dangerous and can be deadly.

The Truth about Lying

Our children are liars from birth (Psalm 58:3) and while much of their untruth involves exaggeration or imagination when they are young, it’s dangerous to allow children to continue down the path of falsehood. The end is judgment and death.

  • “You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.” (Psalm 5:6)
  • “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish.” (Proverbs 19:9)
  • “But as for…all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)

What is lying? To lie is to affirm in speech or writing something you believe to be false. There are many different forms of lying—including rationalization, plagiarism, slander, or just conveniently leaving out certain facts from a story. Many people seem to consider lying a rather minor offense that should be avoided. But the truth is that lying brings pain, it destroys relationships, and it ruins people’s lives. 1

Ultimately, lying is a problem because it breaks God’s law (Ex. 20:16) and contradicts his character.

  • “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19)
  • “in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began” (Titus 1:2)

Why does my child lie?

Kids and teens lie for all types of different reasons. Sometimes these are influenced by significant life changes.

  • To impress others – A child might fabricate fantastic stories for friends so that they are amazed. When they are young, these exaggerations may be absurd (like owning a pet unicorn or traveling to the moon).
  • To gain attention – If disobedience is one of the few times you have significant interaction (albeit negative) with your child, they might lie partly to get your attention.
  • To avoid something – Kids will go out of their way to weasel out of responsibility or punishment or to avoid embarrassment by lying.

7 ways to help your child stop lying

1. Teach regularly about lying

Don’t wait to give instruction until it’s time to give correction. Take initiative by regularly teaching about God’s blessing for honesty and the consequences for lying. Consider studying the stories in Genesis that include lying (Resource Link) with your child or searching the Bible for other instances where someone lied or told the truth. For young children, you also might benefit from a resource such as “Gwen Tells Tales: When It’s Hard to Tell the Truth” by Ed Welch. This beautiful and helpful book is part of New Growth Press’s “Good News for Little Hearts” series.

2. Model honesty and confession

Your children are listening to your conversations and watching your lifestyle. Be an example of integrity by refusing to exaggerate or misinform others with your words or your actions. Avoid any appearance of deception and when you do fall into falsehood, courageously confess your sin and ask for forgiveness in front of your kids.

3. Give warnings and reminders

There are times when our children are put into situations where they will be tempted to lie about something they’ve done (or not done). Anticipate these temptations and acknowledge them for your child. In John 13, Jesus predicted that Peter would deny him and lie three times. Then in the following chapters, he went on to remind them of His love for them and His plan to send them a helper, the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17).

4. Welcome the truth

Before asking your child or teen if they did something wrong, you might say something like, “Son, in just a moment, you might be tempted to lie to me…I want you to know that I love you and that the best thing you could do right now is to tell me the truth, even though that’s hard to do.” This won’t always mean that you can reward them for telling you the truth—especially if their confession requires correction, however, you can praise them for choosing truthfulness and celebrate honesty in your home.2

5. Correct for dishonesty

Lying is serious and must not be minimized. The form of punishment will differ depending on the offense but you should not simply ignore or overlook dishonesty. Correction must never be a means of venting your frustration. It must be calculated and consistent, demonstrating to the child that deception is dangerous and destructive. 3 Correcting your child when they are young will reap lasting benefits for them.

6. Replace Lying with Truth-telling

In Ephesians 4, Paul explains that it’s not enough just to stop lying. “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor…” (Eph. 4:25). Have your child exchange a pattern of lying with a practice of truth-telling. This is essential if your child will find lasting success in this area. Consider having your child actually practice verbalizing the truth out loud.

7. Don’t Label Your Child as a Liar

Finally, recognize that your child is not defined by their actions. If you talk to others (including your spouse and your child’s siblings) about their struggle with lying, do it privately and for the purpose of prayer. Don’t needlessly tell others about your child’s struggles who have no part in the solution. That’s called gossip.

If your child is a Christian, remind them that they are a child of the God who cannot lie (Heb 6:18) and they are a follower of Jesus who is the truth (John 14:6). By God’s grace, they are being renewed into the image of their creator!

“Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” - Colossians 3:9–10


  1. In fact, recent research suggests that lying may even have a long term effect on our ability to remember.

  2. Another simple way to welcome the truth is to not react strongly, even if what they say is shocking or disturbing. If you become angry or disapproving when they tell you the truth, they will probably avoid telling you in the future.

  3. When it’s possible, consult with your spouse and pray about the appropriate form (and severity) of punishment for that particular situation.

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