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How can I get my 4-year old to be more honest?

How do I get my almost 4-year old daughter to stop telling so many lies? It isn't her imagination running wild because she obviously realizes it is wrong but still continues to do it often until punishments are used and even afterwords she continues to lie sometimes!

Submitted by jacquecase87

I think you are probably correct that your 3 year old isn't lying because her "imagination is running wild, because she obviously realizes it is wrong..." My guess is that she is lying as an expression of her confusion and her anger. She is lying because she is too little to respond to conflict between people in a more adult, rational, articulate fashion. She doesn't yet have the patience, the vocabulary, or the self-control--because she is so young. She uses the only weapon she has.


I also have a guess that you have high standards for her behavior. Is it possible that you are placing expectations on her which are over her head right now? A small child who feels put in a jam will lie to get out of it. Such a child is too young to really analyze the situation and discuss it with you like an adult, because she does not know how to advocate for her own point of view. She is old enough to know that you are annoyed with her but not old enough to resolve the issue between you smoothly as an adult would do. 


If this is the problem, the solution would be to step back from the whole picture for a while. Try to imagine how confusing the world must be to a 3 year old, even if she seems in some ways very clever and shrewd. You might let up on some of your demands on your daughter and expect a bit less maturity over the next several months. I am pretty sure that she will feel less need to lie if she feels more secure in your approval of her.


The basic issue is one of trust between you and your daughter. Trust is something that has to go both ways. She does not trust that she can tell you the truth. You do not trust that she is truthful. Because she is so little, she cannot make constructive changes in your relationship that would turn this around--but you can! Letting up on expectations and demands, and showing her more emotional support can help you put your relationship back on a level of mutual trust.

The answers from our experts are for educational purposes only. Please always refer to your child's pediatrician and mental health expert for more in-depth advice.

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I completely agree with jancstar1. I too have done this with my now 4 year old twin girls. If they lied they got put in time out. And be sure to explain the when she lies, the concequences are MUCH greater than when she tells the truth. Not just the punishment, the the distrust, and how it hurts your feelings. And when my girls are honest, I'm sure to tell them that the reason they are not getting put in time out is because they were honest and be sure to thank her for her honesty!! Big key!!!
Submitted by saliverosa
Not sure why this is so complicated or the advice seems so complex. The child is just 3 so it could possibly make sense but as a child development professional teaching 3 through 6 yr olds, I can tell you that the ONLY reasons a child would possibly lie would be a Huge imagination and they do not believe they are lying or more common and more likely that they Do Not want to get into trouble. Children lie so they will NOT get in trouble. Some tried and true advice. Here it goes and it works and creates trust and communication. Tell your child that if they Lie, they will get in trouble. If they tell the truth, they will NOT get in trouble. It really works!! This does not mean there are no consequences or a talk on why that was wrong etc..Even after your child fesses up about the gum on the wall, you give them a hug and say "thank you for being truthful" Now, lets figure out how YOU are going to clean this up. Natural consequences. Try it! Its awesome!
Submitted by jancstar1
Kids are so much smarter than we give them credit for.They are looking to us to tell them right from wrong. It is our responsibility to teach them no matter the age. If they are old enough to tell a lie, then they are old enough to tell the truth as well.
Submitted by deebellomo1
When my son was four I told him I knew when he lied by looking in his eyes. After that he closed his eyes whenever he lied.
Submitted by brittanybrumbeloe