4 Ways Parents Unknowingly Encourage their Children to Lie

Raising Children: Love, Limits & Lessons

Four Ways Adults Encourage Children to Lie

A parent told me that she had been using praise as a means of motivating her 3 year old daughter to stay dry through the night. If the little girl awoke each morning with a dry diaper, her mom would praise her. On one particular morning the child had apparently taken her diaper off and brought it to her mom to show her the great results and to receive her praise. But later that morning, mom found the REAL diaper that was worn that night, hidden in the child’s bedroom and wet!

1.) We teach them to lie to get our approval

In the case I wrote about above, the little girl loved the praise she was getting for her dry diaper in the morning and had learned to hide the wet diaper to please her mother. Even though this example was about a young child, our children of all ages learn quickly about getting our approval at all costs. The caregiver’s approval feels good and a child will do whatever he can to get it.

2.) Children lie to protect themselves

My parents obtained their parenting tools from their parents. The penalty received for the C’s, D’s, and F’s my siblings and I brought home on school papers was whippings from a belt. Because my parents used fear to motivate us to perform, fear is what I felt as a child. To protect myself from what I feared most, I learned quickly how to change grades on papers, hide or destroy the papers, or lie about the grades I received on assignments. I often think about where I might be today academically if my parents had responded differently.

3.) Parents force their children to be nice to others

Have you ever demanded that your child be nice to a playmate or forced him to say he’s sorry for something? What about forcing your child to kiss or hug an elderly relative she doesn’t want to go near. The process of developing social skills takes time and patience. Forcing a child to suppress his or her feelings about another person teaches them to hide their true self and be, do, or say something for someone else’s benefit and not their own.

4.) Children learn from the example adults set

Your child runs to answer the ringing telephone as you shout, “If it’s grandma, tell her that I’m not home.” You tell the ticket taker at the admission gate of the amusement park that your child is an age just under the price break so that you can save a few dollars. By natural design our children have a drive for honesty, but through modeling, training, and getting their needs met, they learn to lie. If we handle our child’s lying without a trace of punishment or anger and instead, demonstrate acceptance and unconditional love, our child will have less motivation to continue it and her internal compass of integrity will develop naturally as it should.

Related Video: Why Children Lie


Bill Corbett

Bill is the author of the award-winning parenting book series, Love, Limits, & Lessons: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Cooperative Kids (in English and in Spanish) and the executive producer and host of the public access television show Creating Cooperative Kids. He is a Western Mass native and grew up in the Northampton area. As a member of the American Psychological Association and the North American Society for Adlerian Psychology, Bill provides parent coaching and keynote presentations to parent and professional audiences across the country. He sits on the board of the Network Against Domestic Abuse, the Resource Advisory Committee for Attachment Parenting International, and the management team of the Springfield Parent Academy. Bill’s practical experience comes as a father of 3 grown children, a grandfather of two, and a stepdad to three, and resides in the area with his loving wife Elizabeth and teen step daughter Olivia.  You can learn more about Bill and his work at www.CooperativeKids.com.

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