What do you do when your child lies?

Published on July 24, 2023

Dear Mattsons, 

What should we do when we know our daughter is lying? We talk constantly about integrity and character, but certainly want her to internalize this before she hits the teenage years.

Sincerely, Integrity Matters

We appreciate the fact that integrity matters. Want to live that? Live that out in your family. 

And honestly, anyone who is lying, there’s a couple reasons. So, I want you to better understand that the first one might be personality. 

There are certain personalities and wirings that love to tell stories, not wanting to disappoint people, or manipulation. All that kind of drawing is for certain personalities, and there’s other personalities. 

You know, the child who is all about the truth and the facts, they are probably not going to lie. As much, but the other reason is usually because we fear the consequence, or that losing the relationship. So a little 10-year-old who is lying, they are testing the waters to see what happens when I lie. Or I’m afraid I am going to get the consequence. 

So we really want you to start with, affirm your love for your child. 

I talked with my youngest daughter, who struggled in this area because of her personality growing up. And I said, “what would you tell the moms and dads out there?” And she said, make sure they know to affirm that they love their child and that no matter what, that relationship is going to stay intact. 

That’s important for those little personalities, to remind children it is who they are and not what they do. 

So before we have a conversation about lying, tell your kid, “I just want you to know that I love you, and no matter what happens in your behavior and the consequences that come, nothing can change that love and our relationship.” That is a key factor in helping children to not lie. 

You hear us talking about practicing lots of stuff. I mean, this is just another one of those cases that you want to practice, role-playing, truth telling scenarios, right. We are assuming that you are doing this with younger and older kids. 

Just practice those situations. The other thing too is to be sure that you are acknowledging and pointing out moments when you recognize your child telling the truth. 

“Hey, I could tell you just said something that absolutely was true, and that was awesome and made perfect sense to us and me.” 

Just give them the benefits of those rewards. By that, you are noticing when they are making the effort of sticking to the story and telling the truth as opposed to bending it or lying altogether. 

Catching them telling the truth, using the term we are truth tellers, and this is how you tell the truth. And yes, sometimes there’s consequences, so that last piece would be if they are lying, you want to understand and give them a chance to explain. 

The Scriptures say that the truth sets us free, because we feel better, so helping them understand why when we tell the truth, we feel better about ourselves. 

We build trust in our relationships and lying breaks trust and I want to be able to trust you. You want to be able to trust me, so we tell each other the truth. Sometimes there’s consequences, but the consequences will most likely be less when you’re telling the truth than when you build a lie and catch it around you. 

All throughout culture shows lying. There’s lots of great examples where you’re drawing attention wherever you can. We all want to be truth tellers. 

So, practice those scenarios outside of the real situations and then when there is lying, you’re going to slow down and hear why your child lied, get to the heart of it and then give them a chance to build a repair and to see what it feels like to tell you that truth, to hug and to say thank you. I can trust you. 

Let’s keep trying to build on this trust. That feeling inside that relational child is going to be a huge part of what motivates them to tell the truth. 

It’s important that you’re looking at your own truth telling as the adult because kids are watching and catching everything. So, if you call into work and say you’re sick, but you’re not, so you can go play. I mean, that’s just that’s not congruent and kids will pick up on that. 

This message is good for all of us. It’s good for us as adults. It’s good for us as our kids. And that’s what healthy systems and in this case, a healthy family system is all about. It’s about trying to live with more integrity. So, integrity should matter to everyone. 

If you’re wanting to continue to grow, especially if you’re a mom who has a daughter, we want to tell you about our helping moms raise confident daughter courses. 

We partnered with Christian Parenting to develop courses that are helping parents like you come alongside their children, and I particularly got the chance to help with moms helping their daughters raise confident daughters. Go to cpguides.org to learn more about those courses. 

And remember that you’re the right parent for the job, and Tara and I are here cheering you on. 

To get parenting advice for things you might be dealing with, checkout the Dear Mattsons playlist on YouTube!

Have a question for the Mattsons? Fill out the form here. There are no bad questions!

Live perfectly imperfect

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Jeff and Terra Mattson

Jeff Mattson (MA ORL) and Terra Mattson (MA LPC, LMFT) are Christian Parenting spokespeople and the co-hosts of the Living Wholehearted Podcast in the Christian Parenting Podcast Network.


After two decades studying and working in leadership and trauma-informed therapy, Jeff and Terra are bridging the gap between Biblical, clinical, and relational wisdom to help leaders live with integrity in the home, work, and community.


They are the co-founders of Living Wholehearted, a professional counseling and organizational development firm. Terra is the author of Courageous: Being Daughters Rooted in Grace and together they co-authored Shrinking the Integrity Gap: Between what Leaders Preach and Live. Jeff and Terra have skin in the game as they raise their two daughters just outside Portland, OR on five acres of old growth woods. There is never a dull moment in the Mattson home!

Read more about Jeff and Terra

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