Given so many costs of lying, why then do children lie?

First, understand what lying is. Lying is the act of deliberately NOT telling the truth on order to gain illicit freedom or some other gain. It is commonly done in three ways.
1. By FALSIFYING information, swearing one truth when the contrary is true.
2. By WITHOLDING information, presenting part of the truth, but not the whole.
3. By MANIPULATING information, misleading understanding by implying one truth to draw attention away from another.

There are many motivations behind why child children lie. A few of the more common causes are listed below.
To get to do the forbidden
To escape consequences of wrongdoing.
To compensate for feeling inadequate by creating a false image to impress other people.
To pretend that make-believe is real.
To deny the reality of painful feelings or actual events.
To avoid arousing emotional upset by being honest about what someone doesn't want to hear.
To outsmart adults by fooling them with dishonesty.
To self-protect from the threat of interpersonal harm.
To cover up for friends' or loved ones' misdeeds.
To conceal a source of guilt or shame.
To create secrecy in order to enable addiction.

Whatever the reason, parents need to treat lying seriously. The quality of family life depends as much as anything on the quality of communication, and lying can erode that quality to devastating effect. There is no trust without truth. There is no intimacy without honesty. There is no safety without sincerity. And there is no such thing as a small lie because when parents overlook one lie they only encourage the telling of another.

So, when a child lies, what might parents helpfully do?
1. Explain the high costs of lying so the child understands the risks that go with dishonesty.
2. Declare how it feels to be lied to so the child understands how loving relationships can be emotionally affected.
3. Apply some symbolic reparation - a task the child must do that he or she would not ordinarily have to do, to work the offense off.
4. Insist on a full discussion about the lying - why it occurred, how the child could have chosen differently so that lying did not occur, what the child is going to do to prevent further lying, and what the child may need from the parents in order to make future truth telling easier to do.
5. Declare that lying in the family will always be treated as a serious offense.
6. Finally, parents need to declare that they intend to reinstate trust and the expectation of truth in order to give the child a chance to resume an honest relationship and to not drive themselves crazy with distrust.

Copyright, Carl Pickhardt Ph.D. All Rights Reserved. For permission to use, contact the author.