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Lies and fibs - children

lies; lying; liar; fibs;

When children don’t tell the truth it can upset and worry parents. It is important to understand what the lie means to your child before you react.

Children's understanding of the truth is related to their development.

  • Telling lies has no meaning for children under three. They do not understand that thinking is private and they believe that their parents can read their minds. A two year old in a shop may say "Why did you lose me, Mummy?" They think mum knows where they are, even whenthey are out of sight.
  • Three to four year olds are learning that other people don’t know what they are thinking. Children this age have a very strong imagination. They enjoy practising their new knowledge and often test it out by telling 'stories', eg. "The big bad wolf did it". It is normal for young children to blame someone else or make up a story.
  • Children in the early years of school usually want to please their parents more than they want to do the ‘right thing’, so they are less likely to tell the truth if they think it will make their parents angry or upset.
  • By eight or nine children may have some understanding of the difference between the truth and fantasy, such as Father Christmas.
  • A child’s sense of right and wrong is usually developed by about nine or ten years of age.

Understanding and telling the truth is something that children learn over years, not something they know from birth.

To find out more

Have a look at the Parent Easy Guide developed by Parenting SA -

Parenting SA is a partnership between the Department for Education and the Women’s and Children’s Health Network. (South Australia) 

There is another topic on our site which may be of interest

Resources in South Australia

Parent Helpline
Phone1300 364 100 For advice on child health and parenting

Child and Family Health Service (CaFHS)
Phone 1300 733 606, 9am-4:30pm, Mon to Fri to make an appointment.

More to read

Raising Children Network Raising Children website is produced with the help of an extensive network including the Australian Government.

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).

This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.

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