When kids lie: What you should do according to one BYU expert

Apr 1, 2023, 12:15 PM

Child care provider Holly Kingston gives children a snack at her home in West Jordan on Friday, Jan...

Child care provider Holly Kingston gives children a snack at her home in West Jordan on Friday, Jan. 27, 2023. Parents, children, educators, and supporters gathered at the Capitol for Child Care Day on the Hill. (Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

(Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — What do parents need to know about when kids lie and how to deal with that dishonesty? 

BYU psychologist Dr. Tom Golightly joins Dave & Dujanovic to talk about when children lie to their parents.

“What’s it like when our kids lie to us? Is it a sign of — are they afraid of getting in trouble? Are they pushing boundaries? What are some of the things we learn when our kids are lying to us?” Dave Noriega asked.

Golightly says when something bad happens, a child is trying to control the situation so that the caregiver will still give acceptance and approval to the child.

“Generally speaking, especially the earlier the ages, if you catch them in trying to mold how they’re explaining some things, they’re actually just looking for approval,” he said. 


Should the cell phone be taken away for lying?

“What about taking their cell phone because that’s a favorite move of parents in my circles?” Noriega asked.

Golightly said he found taking away a cell phone from a child turned out, in the end, to be his punishment. 

Instead of taking the cell phone away, he advised limiting its use.

“You don’t have to do all of the taking away,” Golightly said, “but you can meet them in the middle and say, ‘Yes, you get it for school’, but we’re going to really curb some of how you’re interacting.”

Reinforce honesty over punishment

“If they’re cheating in school — on a test or on an assignment or they’re copying off their best buddy for all the answers — is that lying? And are they doing that to also win our approval?” Debbie Dujanovic asked.

Golightly said most of the parents he knows are not trying to raise children who base their worth on their achievements.

“But a lot of times we do base our worth on achievements,” said Golightly. “We might lie, as children, to put ourselves in a spot like, ‘No, I am competent. You can trust me. I am I am lovable’.”

“If we understand why kids are “lying,” what’s the appropriate response?” Noriega asked.

“A big thing is to reinforce when they are honest,” Golightly said. “When they come home, and they show you the bad grade, for example, say, ‘Hey, thanks for showing me. What can we do to support you or help you get better here?’ as opposed to ‘Why are the grades so bad?’!”

Golightly stressed that it takes time for parents to reinforce honesty, to show a child that integrity is an important value for which to strive.

“Research shows reinforcement changes behavior a lot more than punishment does,” he added.

Because parents want to be loved by their children, the accountability component can be difficult for some parents to apply when they are lied to by their kids.

“We’re a little afraid, like, ‘If I punish too hard, they’re not going to like me.’ There’s a way to ride that line and dance that dance where we can keep our children accountable without being overly punishing,” Golightly said.

Related reading:

Why Kids Lie and What Parents Can Do About It

Proposed bill would prohibit police from lying to children during interviews

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard on weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

Mental Health

I’ve been working steadily for hours but feel as if I haven’t even started. My attention is bei...

Sandee LaMotte, CNN

Our attention span is shrinking, studies say, but focus is possible

Researchers say people are concentrating less on any one screen, and are taking longer to refocus on an active work project.

5 days ago


Michelle Lee

Tackling the loneliness epidemic

A researcher noticed that people were spending more time in isolation and less time with family and friends. Now, 50% of us say we're lonely.

7 days ago

Anxiety in children, especially teenage girls, is on the rise....

Amanda Dickson

Where is anxiety in children coming from?

Rates of anxiety in children have risen since the pandemic, but especially with increase use of social media.

9 days ago

The attention given to social media by researchers and lawmakers is warranted said an expert from t...

Simone Seikaly

Mental health and social media, a Utah child psychologist weighs in

An expert from the Huntsman Mental Health Institute dives into recent social media recommendations from the U.S. Surgeon General.

11 days ago

The U.S. surgeon general is calling for tech companies and lawmakers to take "immediate action" to ...

BARBARA ORTUTAY AP Technology Writer

8 tips for parents and teens on social media use — from the US surgeon general

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy's tips include creating "tech-free zones" — such as meal times and nighttime.

11 days ago

Just one week after eight HBCUs were threatened, a bomb threat was called in on at the University o...

Mark Jones

Resiliency Center: Building a mental resilience

The Resiliency Center at the University of Utah is providing help to 25,000 employees in education, clinical roles and research.

18 days ago

Sponsored Articles

close up of rose marvel saliva blooms in purple...

Shannon Cavalero

Drought Tolerant Perennials for Utah

The best drought tolerant plants for Utah can handle high elevations, alkaline soils, excessive exposure to wind, and use of secondary water.

Group of cheerful team members high fiving each other...

Visit Bear Lake

How To Plan a Business Retreat in Bear Lake This Spring

Are you wondering how to plan a business retreat this spring? Read our sample itinerary to plan a team getaway to Bear Lake.

Cheerful young woman writing an assignment while sitting at desk between two classmates during clas...

BYU EMBA at the Marriott School of Business

Hear it Firsthand: 6 Students Share Their Executive MBA Experience at BYU’s Marriott School of Business

The Executive MBA program at BYU offers great opportunities. Hear experiences straight from students enrolled in the program.

Skier being towed by a rider on a horse. Skijoring....

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking for a New Winter Activity? Try Skijoring in Bear Lake

Skijoring is when someone on skis is pulled by a horse, dog, animal, or motor vehicle. The driver leads the skiers through an obstacle course over jumps, hoops, and gates.

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...

Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer.

Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy.

When kids lie: What you should do according to one BYU expert