Why do toddlers lie

Are All 3-Year-Olds Pathological Liars??

Mom Jeanine
November 15, 2011


Good Question, hot topic, Jeanine Edwards

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I love my daughter and after reading this post I don’t want you to think she is a demon child or the spawn of Satan. She really is an incredibly well-behaved, sweet child, except that she lies. Like, a lot.

Last week, she told her babysitter I was pregnant. I’m not, nor do I have any plans to be in the near future. She just completely made it up. Over the weekend, she started crying for no apparent reason. When I asked her what had happened, she said my boyfriend screamed at her. But I was in the room–and football was on–so I know for a fact he didn’t say a word to her. Yesterday, when she had an accident, she told me it was because grandpa told her she couldn’t go to the bathroom. Except that her grandfather lives in Connecticut and she hasn’t seen him in over a week. This morning when I asked her who messed up all the shoes on the shoe rack, she blamed it on her father. But he’s not even allowed in my apartment. What gives?

I know it’s probably normal for kids her age to make things up, but can it possibly be normal for a toddler to lie this much? I’ve tried explaining to her that she should always tell the truth, but it’s just not sinking in. Is she too young to even understand lying or does she know exactly what she’s doing?

I’ve resisted the temptation to call my pediatrician in a panic because part of me thinks/hopes it will all resolve itself in time. But what if it doesn’t? What if I’m raising a pathological liar? How do I correct this before it becomes a bigger issue?

Any other moms with kids who like to, umm, embellish the truth? Why do toddlers lie so much? Or, why does my toddler lie so much?? Share your experience or thoughts in the comments.

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  • Heta Shah
    November 15, 2011

  • I had countless occassions where I would caught my daughter(now 9) telling a lie. I kep repeating her, the disadvantages of lying, starting from no one would believe her..She started lying at about 5. And now, she is much better. I believe, if you don’t stop your child occassionally, he/she will just think it is acceptable..I am no doctor and has not discussed this with any doctor, just my two cents.

  • Kristi
    November 15, 2011

  • I told my daughter the story of the boy who cried wolf and told her that if she lies to people they will eventually stop believing anything she says, and then even when she really is telling the truth people will not believe her. She needs the occasional reminder (as does everyone), but she seemed to really understand it when put to the story and will even tell other people. =)

  • Roxy
    November 15, 2011

  • you know how adults who lie lose friends or end up in jail with a sentence worse than if they had told the truth?

    Just like I got punished, I will take away fun activities and privileges with lies my children tell me.

  • Sara Morelli
    November 15, 2011

  • Kids lie. I have three boys, and around the age three they all started lying..but it does stop! My sister used a reward chart type method for my neice ( who is now 6 ) it gave her all sorts of chores to do, but then she was able to create her own tag for “telling the truth”. Every day “told mommy the truth” she got a gold star! She really did well and worked hard to stop lying.
    Pretty sure it was called a rewards chart and that she got it from Hope that helps, but please trust me when I tell you..it is normal, and until we teach them that the truth is better, they will continue to try! http://www.onestepahead.com

  • Heidi
    November 15, 2011

  • I was at the doctor’s office, having stitches(from a work related accident) out. My daughter had a cold sore. She was about 4 at the time. She was telling the nurse what happened to me and being all cute. The nurse asked her “Well How did you get THAT?” and pointed to her cold sore. She thought for a minute and said “My mommy bit me” I thought for sure I was going to fall off the table. Fortunately we’d been going to the doctor for over 5 years and they pretty much knew us. I don’t know what would have happened if she had told someone else that. I let her know that her saying that could land me in jail. I stressed how important it is to always tell the truth, especially when she involves other people. I stressed that if anyone, even me, ever hurt her that she should absolutely tell, so that the person could get help. It was such a tough conversation. She never told any lies quite like that, but there were other ones. She tripped on the moon and bumped her head(explaining a knot from a fall around the house). She threw out all her toys at her dad’s house one time and told her stepmom that I empty her toybox like that all the time and that’s why she did it. I think they are just struggling for an explanation that makes sense. I gave her permission to do silly things sometimes for no reason at all. I told her that if you do it just cause you want to, admit that. It’s okay…you just have to correct it, clean it, whatever. I’ll help. Just don’t lie about it.
    I hope you guys straighten it out!

  • Emma
    November 16, 2011

  • Kids lie for lots of reasons. Sometimes they are just making life more interesting, and, as could be in the case of your daughter, embellishing on their life by adding others into it. Kind of like blaming something on an imaginary friend when both of you know what the truth is.

    Kids also lie when they feel too much pressure to act perfectly, but I don’t think this is the case with your daughter.

    Maybe you could help her write stories, where you write it down as she tells it to you, saying something like, “what do you think Grandpa would do if he saw an elephant in his bed?” and have her finish it and draw pictures. Then when she tells a “story” as an answer to your serious question, you could ask her, “is that the truth or something we could write a story about later?” to try to help her know the difference. And to let her know that YOU know the difference. *smile*

    You can be firm and serious that the truth needs to be told, while still helping her separate tales and fun from lying.