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#AskAlyson: Why Is My Child Lying and Telling Tales?

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Dear Alyson,


My 8 year old daughter is constantly making up stories/lying about anything and everything and it is driving me crazy! If somebody around us is telling a story, my daughter is the first to pipe in with “Ya, well… guess what happened to me/someone I know…” and the story turns into some crazy tale of something I am positive never happened. I’ve gotten to the point where I am rolling my eyes when she starts….and I know it’s the wrong reaction but I am so frustrated. When I tell her she is lying she is adamant that she isn’t. HELP!





Hi Bethany,


What a creative kid you have on your hands! No, really – I’m being truthful! It sounds like she has a pretty active imagination and is quick on her feet – I would get her enrolled in an improv class, ASAP!


In all seriousness, lots of kids go through a phase where they make up stories and it is a sign of intelligence. In fact, research shows that all kids will experiment with lying by the age of 4. Whether they repeat it or not is largely based on the response it receives. Check out this great research summary on lying by Po Bronson.


If a child makes up a story about how the lamp got broken by a bird that flew in the window instead of the truth that they knocked it over, and you believe their story, their lying has served to help them; escaping consequences.  When a story (lie) has a positive outcome, it is more likely to be tried and tested again.


If the story about the birds flying in the window makes their friends stop and listen with excitement or they think that their story makes them cool – then the added attention and social status will keep them repeating this behaviour.


If they feel smug doping you – then they feel powerful as an imposter and will repeat the behaviour.


So – there are lots of usefulness to fabricating stories. What do you think your child achieved?


I am sure you rolled your eye balls to signal that you were not being duped, but research shows that rolling our eye balls is actually very hurtful. It is the body language that communicates disgust.   I am sure you didn’t want to tell your child you felt they were disgusting. That is one of the strongest rejection feelings.


Instead, simply say “Please, speak the truth”.


I had a mom a few years back share a good solution she had for a similar issue. She spoke with her son in private and basically encouraged his creative brain by asking him to share stories and creative thoughts that pop into his head, but if he really wanted to be noticed and acknowledged for his quick and creative thinking he needed to disclose that these were stories. They came up with a phrase: “Imagine if….”. And anytime he felt like telling a tale or adding on to a conversation with a creative thought, he replaced the usual “Guess what happened to me…” with “Imagine if…”. It gave him the outlet to still share his story without lying.


Another thought would be to recognize your daughter’s creative mind by presenting her with a gift – a writing journal. Start the conversation with how much you appreciate how creative she is and you wanted to make sure she continued to exercise that part of her brain. Wouldn’t it be great if she wrote them down? End it on a high note: “I think maybe we have an author in the family!”   No need to address the lying. At 8, they are very well aware of what they are doing.


Happy Parenting,


About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

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