20 Reasons Why Kids Lie (Depending On Their Age)

Believe it or not, children lying is normally not something to be concerned over. A study found on The Conversation stated that “Children typically begin lying in the preschool years, between two and four years of age.” So, don’t worry, parents!

Children are not the only ones who are lying about the smallest things like eating that slice of chocolate cake or saying it was the dog who drew on the wall. In fact, we as parents should be more concerned if our child doesn’t tell a little fib or two. Lying is one of the first signs that our child is developing awareness of other people, their feelings, and desires. It indicates that they are aware that they could possibly manipulate other people’s minds.

Kids are way smarter than most people give them credit for and their senses are even keener than that of a grown human being. As children get older and grow into teenagers, lying becomes something that is used to mask more serious issues. Issues that our child may have a hard time vocalizing. And let’s be honest, having kids, taking care of them, and getting them to be upstanding is hard AF.

Lying is basically the least of their problems and there are worse things to worry about. However, always keep tabs on their lies because if it seems excessive or comes off as troublesome, then parents have cause to worry. Some parents won’t always be able to chalk it up to "kids being kids."

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20 They Are Following Their Favorite Celeb


Society is obsessed with celebrity culture. They watch the shows and cartoons of their favorite actors and actresses and quickly begin to mimic the behavior they see. Many kids take the poor examples of what they see on TV and begin acting them out in real life. This can only lead to negative actions. Many kids don’t realize that this isn’t real life they begin to idolize the character that stands out the most or the one who lies, bullies, and is loud or obnoxious. And just like that, your tween is out in the streets lying and bullying. It's so easy for children and teenagers to be manipulated and they don’t even know it.

19 They Don’t Think They Are Lying

Some kids—usually around toddler age—don’t realize that they are lying! They don’t understand the concept of what a lie is, how it functions in society, and why it's bad. Most of the time this is because they are just starting to grasp the function of language. So you may be thinking, how would a kid learn to lie? To be honest it's an innate function. Everyone knows how to lie, so it's up to the guardians to emphasize the importance of telling the truth. They don’t necessarily know that lying can cause harm in many ways. When most small children lie they just think that they are saying things that are not exactly the truth, they are only telling the parts that are not going to get them they look from mommy and daddy.

18 Personal Gain

via Upworthy

Kids and teenagers lie for personal gain. For example, “Did you clean your room, Dylan?”, “Yea mom, can I go outside now?” Then they then rush to the door to make it outside before their parents even realize that they didn't clean anything. In fact, they probably shoved stuff under their bed and in the crevasses that would never be checked. Personal gain is one of the top reasons why a child of any age will lie. This is a no-brainer. They figure out early on that lying can be used to manipulate people. Any kid will use it in a way that is going to help them.

17 They Are Developing A 'Theory Of Mind'

The “Theory of Mind” is a “developmental perspective,” meaning kids are lying more often because they are realizing that other people have different desires, beliefs, and needs. They are becoming aware that they can use their mind and their mouths to essentially trick people. A good example of this would be when a child goes to one parent and says that the other parent said they can have or do something. They very well know that this is not the truth but it may get them what they want. People often overlook this as a form of lying or even a problem. However, it is one of the first signs that a child’s mind is developing.

16 That's For Me To Know And You To Find Out

girl at the doctor
Credit: iStock / Maximastudio

Let’s be real, no teenager anywhere wants their parents to know what they are doing. So, to effectively evade their parent’s questions and suspicions, they lie. The lie could be something as tiny as what they ate for lunch that day or all the way up to where they went after school one day. Teenagers are crafty. They know what they can and cannot do and what level of punishment it will get them. So by lying, it is simply their way of making sure that they get the least amount of punishment possible. Granted it usually backfires in their face, but there's nothing wrong with trying, right?

15 About That Report Card

No kid wants to come home and report bad grades to their parents. Some parents are crazy obsessed with their kid's grades which forces their children to feel like lying is their best option. We all agree that grades play a role in society but there are also bigger things to worry about and worse things to yell at your kid about. So in a way, the parent is the one forcing their child to lie to them. A bad grade isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it is one of the most fixable problems out there. Don’t make them feel like they have to lie because you demand all “A's”.

14 Health Reasons

Mental health, physical health, whatever it is, a teenager or child may feel like they need to lie about it. Whether it's because they are sickly and are tired of spending their childhood in a hospital room or because they see how worried their parents get when they aren’t feeling well... They are trying to protect you, and this for them is a very valid reason to lie. We see it all the time portrayed in films and movies where a sick child will hide how they feel in an effort to spare their parents the heartache. It's just another defense mechanism.

13 They Literally Think They Are Smarter Than You

mom and son cuddle
Credit: iStock / Giselleflissak

On the other hand, some (almost all) teenagers think they are smarter than their parents. So, what do they do? They lie to get out of every little thing. They think that their parents won’t catch on or that they are too busy to realize that their children are up to something suspicious. Honestly, this is the case sometimes but for the most part, it's just teenagers testing their luck in hopes that they can maybe prove to themselves that they can outsmart mom and dad. They certainly think that the older someone gets, the least likely they are to be able to catch on to their crap. Unfortunately, their parents have done it all and probably more.

12 To Maintain A Good Image

In school, a person's image is everything. There is no question that every kid has told a little white lie or two. Lies to their parents about their grades, to their friends about what they have, or what they did over the summer break. In fact, some parents don’t even realize that they are forcing their children to lie. Parents often compare their children to others and this forces their children to want to prove to their parents that they are just as good. They end up lying about grades and even receiving praises from their teacher. Most parents don’t bat an eye but when your kid normally gets bad grades and only ever receives scoldings from their teacher... It’s something to look into.

11 Their Parents Lie To Them

Like I mentioned before, your children are way smarter and keener than you assume. Your little white lies may encourage them to be liars. So maybe you’re thinking “how are they going to know that I lied?”, parents are not that great at covering their tracks when they lie to their kids. This is partially because they don’t take white lies to their children as being serious. They say it and almost immediately forget it. Or maybe they're thinking, “It was only a small lie.” That little white lie may be something like “We can do it later” or “Yes, I’ll read you a book tonight,” and then you don’t follow through. They see those likes and figure if you can fib, then they can fib, too.

10 Peer Pressure

The company your child keeps is something that every parent needs to look out for. Children’s personality is so easily molded as they are growing up and it's because of this, that their influences are much easier. Whatever they see their friends do and get away with is eventually going to rub off on them. They figure “If they got away with it, why not me?” You can’t really blame them, this is how the minds of tweens and teenagers work. In return, they are seen favorably amongst their friends, and once that happens, there is almost no going back. All kids want is the praises of their friends.

9 Aggression

via: Kaboutjie

Believe it or not, some people lie deliberately in an effort to hurt others. Psychiatrist Dr. Charles V. Ford, calls this kind of lying an "act of aggression." They are trying to get someone to either do something or get something from them by telling aggressive lies. These lies, according to Ford, can be as simple as a car salesman aggressively lying to make a sale or a child telling a lie to the school psychologist to get a friend or family member in trouble. Or even as a means to get attention. To children, any attention is good attention they normally don’t see the severity of the lie as a problem.

8 Making Fantasies A Reality

Many kids lie as a means to fulfill wishes. This is actually one of the most common reasons for kids anywhere between 4 and 7 years old to lie. They want something so bad that they begin telling people that the thing they wanted has happened. For example, a child who wished they could own a pony begins to tell friends and family members that they have a pony. To them, saying the lie is basically just as good as getting the real thing. Some parents chalk it up to their child having an imaginary friend but to the child, this is real and it has happened and that is all that matters.

7 For Self-Esteem

People boast themselves every day. In fact, some people even make a ritual of it. They look in the mirror and give themselves messages of affirmation before starting their day. This, however, is a completely different kind of thing. People lie to themselves for self-esteem and lie to others to make themselves look and feel like a better person. If they feel as though they are falling short in some way or not living up to personal expectations, they tend to fabricate stories as a way of showing off to others; proving that they are successful and accomplished. Something as simple as lying to their friends about a mark they received on a test will suffice.

6 For Delight

For some practical jokers, jokes are just that: jokes. But most of the time a practical joke brews from lies and aggression towards someone else. Telling someone that something bad has happened only to revel in their fear and panic is sickening. But according to Dr. Ford, this is a particular act of lying that many kids and teenagers are attracted to. The idea of being able to pull the wool over the eyes of someone just by using your words is described as powerful. And who doesn’t want to feel powerful? This is a way that teenagers gain popularity in school amongst peers and teachers.

5 They Don’t Want A ‘No’ From Mom And Dad

Many kids lie because they simply don’t want to be denied something from their parents. The word ‘no’ holds a lot of weight with people and not just when you are a child. Essentially, all throughout our lives, the word ‘no’ is one that is feared. However, when you're a child, it feels like the end of the world. Kids normally don’t understand why their parents are saying no to them so they turn to lies in an effort to make sure that they hear the word as little as possible. It could be something as simple as not being able to go outside and play or having that sugary snack.

4 They’re Scared

via Medium

Out of fear and shame, a lot of kids lie. They are unsure of what a certain outcome will be so they lie in an effort to protect themselves. Fear aids people in a lot of the decisions they make in life, so for a child or a teenager, it would make no difference.

Lying because they are scared is a typical reaction. They could be scared of the consequences that may come from telling the truth, they could be scared because they know the truth may get someone else in trouble or worse off, more bad things will happen to them if they don’t lie. It's a vicious cycle.

3 They Don’t Want To Betray A Friend

Some kids lie for their friends. We see it play out all the time in schoolyards, on TV, and in films. A set of parents are arguing with one another because one of the kids did something at another kid's house. The only thing is, one of the kids is lying to keep their friend from getting into trouble. Kids lie for their friends all the time. They keep their secrets and they sometimes take the blame if they know it will protect their friend. On the flip side, some kids lie in order to protect themselves and they blame their friend for everything.

2 Whatever They Did Has Dire Consequences

Some kids lie because the consequences will be beyond severe. It could be something criminal, something detrimental to their health, or it could even be that their parents are abusive. No kid wants to confess to a physically or verbally abusive parent anything that has the potential to get them in trouble. The consequences in some cases have warranted a lie. They are trying to protect themselves from disappointment and pain. Their best bet is to lie and hope that that lie holds up. There are a number of scenarios that could encourage children to lie to their parents or an authoritative figure about.

1 They Don’t Want To Get Into Trouble

Avoiding trouble is a child’s main goal in life. If they can avoid a yelling, a whopping, chores, or even being confronted — they will do whatever it takes. Getting in trouble to a child is basically the end of the world. Taking away toys or play time is something they just cannot stomach. It’s basically what they live for between the ages of an infant all the way up to about the age of 18. Of course, the type of play changes from useless toys to expensive toys like gaming systems and makeup. Regardless, if it affects their current way of life, they will lie to help themselves.

References: The Conversation, AL, List Surge

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