Learning to tell the truth: Teaching by example Learning to tell the truth: Teaching by example

Teaching children to be sincere prepares them for better relationships.

Medical Advisor: Rosa Guevara Quintero, psychotherapist, practitioner at Coomeva Private Healthcare

Children’s books often include stories that teach children not to lie such as Pinocchio, whose nose grows longer every time he lies, or The Boy Who Cried Wolf, who nobody believed once he told the truth after he lied so much, which is why the sheep end up getting eaten by the wolf. In light of this, parents are encouraged to teach their children and instill them with the truth. By reading to them, telling them these fables and talking and reflecting together about this issue, this will leave an impact them when they become teens and adults.

Between ages three and four, children are unable to distinguish between what is real and what is imaginary, and they often tell make-believe stories. As psychotherapist Rosa Guevara Quintero states, “These types of lies are normal because they are part of their imagination.” Keep in mind, however, that these stories become less frequent as children grow older. It is therefore important for parents not to encourage them when they lie; instead, just listen and make sure they know the difference between fiction and reality, make them know that you can be trusted and as a parental authority figure, and establish a friendly relationship.


When they turn seven, they begin to develop logical thought and learn to differentiate between the truth and a lie. For Dr. Guevara, “When children communicate persistently with lies, they may have a behavior problem that can affect their social skills.”

Parents should acknowledge when they lie, support their child by showing them what is correct and help them modify their behavior. The following are some signs that they are not being honest about something: repetitive movements, perspiration, turning red in the face, a change in how they talk, avoiding eye contact and avoidant or elusive behavior .

It is essential for children to be raised in accepting and peaceful environments, where they are not repressed or living in fear, as this can foster the habit of lying •

In over 50% of all children, over-disciplining them leads to behaviors where children lie.


Why do they lie?

  • They are frustrated. They may feel frustrated for not having enough toys, so they lie when they are told they have a lot.
  • To get attention. To do this, they may pretend they are in pain or have a problem
  • Too much is being demanded of them. They lie to not disappoint their parents.
  • To imitate others. They learn by example.
  • To avoid problems and punishments.
  • To get approval and feel accepted by others.
  • To protect someone else. Teach them that each individual is responsible for what they do and say.
  • To have privacy. This happens when a child feels they cannot trust someone. Adults must therefore provide the opportunity for the child to be heard and understood, not judged.
  • To hide their mistakes so as not to disappoint their parents or avoid being made fun of. The child must learn that mistakes are part of life and help you learn.
  • To make another person feel bad. They may make up a story that negatively affects the people they hurt. Parents must teach them that revenge is not a way to solve problems.
  • To get what they want, to get something they are not allowed to have or to avoid what they do not want. They must learn that they can’t have or do everything they want, and that there is no excuse to use deceit to get what they want.
  • To explain why they didn’t follow through with a promise. It’s important to teach them to commit only to what they are able to do.
  • Because they struggle with accepting reality. In this case, they lie as a way out.

Parents, get parenting!

  • Explain how their lie affects others.
  • Punishments should be measurable and appropriate for each mistake they make. If they are too severe, they may be tempted to not tell the truth in order to avoid a potentially more serious mistake.
  • Reinforce their self-esteem to prevent them from lying to seek the approval of their peers, friends or adults.
  • Do not lie to them, make empty promises or tell them lies.
  • Give them the opportunity to be sincere even if this involves a punishment. Reinforce the idea that it takes bravery to tell the truth.
  • Never laugh or show admiration when they lie.
  • When you don’t know how to answer their questions, don’t be afraid to tell them you don’t know.