Published on March 10, 2021

Parenting Tips from the Pros: How to Teach Children Not to Lie

Parenting Tips from the Pros: How to Teach Children Not to Lie

Do you want a teen who lies, deceives, and sneaks behind your back to get what they want? No, you probably don’t—neither do I. Lying is a habit that starts when they are young. Then, by the time they have become teenagers, they would be proficient in lying because of years of practice. It is far better to teach children not to lie and instill in them the habit of honestly while they are young. Their character is dependent on their ability to be transparent, honest, and an unwillingness to bend the truth. Lying is a habit, as is honesty.

Below are some tips on how to teach children not to lie and hopefully, prevent your child from developing deceptive behaviors.

Why Kids Lie

Kids lie for a variety of reasons. For young kids, it can start with fantasy. They may say to their classmate, “I sailed to Africa and back again last night.” We know this isn’t the truth, but their little friend may not know that this is a lie. The lie may have been said as an experiment to see if they can get away with making up things or to impress their friend.

Many children lie because they don’t want to be held accountable for their actions. They may have failed their math test and know that it will result in a grounding. There may be a birthday party they want to attend over the weekend, so they tell their parents they got a B on the math test rather than tell the truth and miss the party.

There other children who lie because they get a rush of excitement when they get others to believe things that are not true. This is not good. The addiction to this feeling can grow and cause their lies and deception to escalate over time. This type of lying can develop into compulsive lying.

Other kids lie because they are embarrassed. They may lie about what they got for Christmas or where they went on summer vacation because they are embarrassed by their reality. They may think that others will look at them as less than them because of their situation. Talk to your kids about this kind of lying. Let them know that they are not less than others regardless of their situation and lying will not make them feel better in the long run.

Other kids will lie to impress others. It’s not that they are embarrassed by their situation or life experiences. It may just be that they want to impress others. This is an attempt to build their self-esteem, but it is a futile attempt because it is built on lies. Talk to your kids about lying to make themselves look better. Discuss the reality of whether the lies help in the long run or if they can hurt them.


Below are some questions to consider asking your child if they are lying for attention or to make themselves look better.

  • If your friends find out the truth, do you think it will make it easier or harder for them to trust you in the future?
  • Why are you telling lies about your situation? What is it that you are trying to gain by lying? What are the risks if people find out that you are lying?

Kids are impulsive, so lies can be told out of impulsivity. Their pre-frontal cortex is not fully developed, which makes their behavior more impulsive. It won’t fully develop until approximately age 25 according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.[1] The prefrontal cortex controls decision-making and using good judgment. This lack of brain development inevitably causes poor judgment including lying.

Kids with ADHD have impulsive behaviors. Therefore, they can be more prone to lying. According to New Life New Outlook ADHD, that “in children, ADHD is often associated with impulsiveness, and this often includes lying. Habitual liars lie without forethought, and it is this impulsive behavior that can often be seen in those with ADHD.”[2]

1. Be the Model of Truth

One of the most effective ways to teach children not to lie is by serving as a good role model. Kids will model their parent’s or caregiver’s behaviors. If they see you telling lies regularly, they are going to grow up believing that this behavior is permissible. If a cashier hands you back the wrong change and you get an extra $20, do you give it back or do you keep it?

Your behavior speaks just as much as your words. If you keep the money and your child sees you doing this, they are going to believe that dishonesty is okay if it is beneficial. The right thing to do is to give the money back to the cashier and let them know that they made a mistake. Your child will see that honesty is the best policy.

Your children are also watching you. They are not only learning from you, but they are also learning about you. If you make a habit of lying, deceitful, and dishonest behavior, they will recognize this behavior as such eventually. If you care about what your children think of you and your character, then make a habit of being honest and truthful in your words and actions.

2. Talk About Brutal Honesty Versus Telling the Truth

“Your outfit is the ugliest thing I have ever seen.” It may be the truth, but does anyone need someone to say this to their face? Of course not. Just because you think something doesn’t mean it needs to be said.


Children need to learn the difference between brutal honesty that is not needed and telling the truth. If the information is going to hurt someone’s feelings and is not necessary, then it likely doesn’t need to be said. If your child doesn’t quite grasp this concept, then roleplay some scenarios and ask them what they should do in each situation.

Below are some examples.

  • If your friend got a really bad haircut, should you tell them it looks awful? Is this helpful truth-telling or brutal honesty?
  • If your grandma gives you a gift you don’t like, should you tell her it is the worst gift ever? What do you think you could say so that you aren’t lying (perhaps simply saying thank you for the gift)?
  • You see your older sister sneaking out of the house at midnight and she tells you not to tell on her. Your mom comes out of her bedroom and asks what the noise is all about so late at night. What do you tell your mom? What could happen to your sister (being out of the house in the middle of the night) if you don’t tell your mom the truth?

3. Have Consequences for Lying

You want to teach your children not to lie, even if it gets them in trouble. You must have consequences for deliberate lying, especially when it comes to telling the truth about things that may get them in trouble. Let them know that there are reduced consequences if they tell the truth.

In our home, my kids know that if they lie about what happened, then they get double the consequence. One consequence (one day of no tablet playtime) for the behavior and a second consequence for lying about it (two days of no tablet playtime). Sometimes, I have to remind them about the double consequence before I ask them about what happened. Kids are going to be more inclined to tell the truth if they know that lying will only make the situation worse for them in the long run.

4. Don’t Set Them Up to Lie

There are instances when it would be easy to set up a child to lie. This is like setting them up to fail. Again, lying is a habit, so help your child practice truth-telling and honesty. Provide ways and outs for them to tell the truth. Don’t back them into the corner and then call them out on being a liar. This does not help build good character in the long run.

If you know that your child came home after curfew because it was recorded by your doorbell or security system, then don’t pretend like you don’t know and then show them the proof to call them a liar as well. Sometimes, facing the consequences of their behavior is hard enough. They may think that they can avoid trouble if they think they can lie and get away with it.

Instead of cornering them, turn it around to a situation where you help them tell the truth, saying “you know we have cameras on the house that record the time people enter and exit the home, do you want to tell me what time you came home last night?” Saying it in a gentle tone and not a punitive tone can help prompt them to tell the truth. You want them to decide to tell the truth on their own.


This helps teach your children not to lie and creates a habit of truth-telling. When they tell you the truth, then you give them the consequence for breaking curfew. But you also let them know the additional consequence that would have been dealt with had they also lied about things.

5. Don’t Brand Your Child as a Liar

Another important way to teach your children not to lie is to not brand them as a liar. If you tell someone that they are something, eventually that is what they will become.

This statement is not true in all circumstances. My daughter won’t become a beautiful butterfly just because I say she is a beautiful butterfly day after day. However, she may emulate the graceful movements of a butterfly because she believes what I am telling her.

The same is true with the character traits that we assign to our children. If we tell our children they are hard workers, you will see that over time that this character develops more. If we point out every time they do a job that they are “a wonderful hard worker, one of the best you know,” you will see them try harder because they believe what you are telling them.

The words of a parent are powerful. If a parent tells their child that they are a liar and this label is affixed or branded on the child in their mind, then they will take it to heart. Not only can this affect their self-esteem, but they can also think that they are bad in some way. They may even go so far as to lie more to get it to work in their favor. If you have branded them as a liar, then they may think they can’t change that about themselves, so they would just use it to their benefit.

6. Reinforce Honesty With Praise

If you have called your child a liar, begin working to reverse this branding in their mind. Look for instances when they are being honest and truthful. Tell them that they are a good and honest kid. Do this over and over again to reinforce their positive truth-telling behaviors.

Use positive reinforcement by praising your child when they are honest, especially in difficult situations. If they did poorly on a test and they got a bad grade, then commend them for sharing the truth with you. Let the child know that you appreciate their honesty and now that you know the truth, you can help them before their next exam or get them some tutoring.


7. Let Them Know Everyone Makes Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes in life. Nobody is perfect. We need to let our children know that we don’t expect perfection from them. We want them to be honest when they make mistakes in life so we can help them through things. We can provide guidance and support when we know that help is needed from us.

Allow your child to tell the truth. Sometimes, kids have impulsive reactions and will lie before thinking. In these situations, you may say, “how about I give you ten minutes to think about things again, and then we will have this chat again?” Then, you can go back to the conversation in ten minutes and allow them to tell the truth—again, reminding them that if they tell the truth there are reduced consequences.

Final Thoughts

Lying is an inevitable part of social life, and your children will be exposed to this as a natural part of growing up. However, it is up to you as a parent to teach your children not to lie and instill in them the habit of honesty instead.

Create opportunities for truth-telling and honesty. It will help them establish these habits as a foundation for their character. Commend them for their honesty, especially when it is difficult for them to tell the truth.

More Practical Parenting Tips

Featured photo credit: Charlein Gracia via


[1] Bridges 2 Understanding: Maturation of the Prefrontal Cortex
[2] New Life New Outlook ADHD: Adult ADHD and Lying: What You Need to Know

More by this author

Dr. Magdalena Battles

A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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Published on July 22, 2021

20 Healthy and Tasty Family Meals Ideas to Try This Week

20 Healthy and Tasty Family Meals Ideas to Try This Week

It’s 5 p.m., and you’re exhausted. The kids are hungry, but no one knows what they want to eat for dinner. With very little energy, you force yourself into the kitchen and look through every cabinet, hoping for a spark of inspiration. Eventually, you toss a few ingredients together and hope for the best. It won’t win any prizes and falls short of what you consider “healthy,” but it fills everyone’s stomachs.

Feeding a family can be stressful, even tiresome. It’s hard to find the energy and creativity needed to cook healthy but simple family meals. It’s easy to fall into the “anything goes” mentality. When you’ve got a busy lifestyle, meals become more about survival and less about nutrition.

Here are 20 quick and healthy—but tasty—recipes followed by tips on making these family meals more nutritious. These recipes can help you have a healthy family meal on the table in an hour or less. Remember, swap ingredients out if someone in your family has dietary restrictions or if you avoid certain foods.

1. Mini Meatloaves With Green Beans and Potatoes

    These miniature meatloaves come together quickly and cook faster, too. You can have a family favorite on the table, paired with seasoned potatoes and fresh green beans, in just 40 minutes.

    Get the recipe here.

    2. One-Pan Chicken Parmesan Pasta

      This classic will taste like you spent hours cooking, but the preparation and clean-up couldn’t be quicker. One-pot cooking makes this dish practical, while fresh basil, parmesan, and garlic add a special touch.

      To try this recipe, go here.

      3. Sheet-Pan Chicken Fajitas

        Skip the restaurant and make fajitas at home. The ingredients go on one sheet pan, meaning you won’t spend all night cleaning. Zesty chicken, bell peppers, and warm tortillas can be on the table in 40 minutes. Add sour cream, salsa, guacamole, lettuce, diced tomato, and any other favorite toppings.

        Check out the recipe here.

        4. Philly Cheese Steak Stuffed Peppers

          Lose the carbs but keep the cheesesteak flavors with this quick family meal. Kids will love the pepper “bowls,” and you’ll love giving them a meal full of veggies and protein to keep them healthy.


          Try it tonight. Get the recipe here.

          5. Chipotle Chicken Quinoa Burrito Bowl

            This veggie-packed meal adds an extra boost by using the superfood quinoa instead of rice. Flavorful yet simple, this meal makes an excellent packable lunch or dinner for your whole family.

            Find the recipe here.

            6. Spinach and Chicken Skillet With Lemon and Parmesan

              The complex flavors of lemon and parmesan come together nicely in this gourmet-like dish, but you don’t have to exert the effort or spend as much as a gourmet meal.

              Get the recipe for this dish here.

              7. Oven-Fried Fish and Chips

                Fish and chips can also sometimes be healthy as evident in this oven-fried version. You won’t miss the calories with this favorite family meal.

                You can find the recipe here.

                8. Pineapple-Teriyaki Chicken

                  Tangy pineapple and sweet teriyaki will have everyone coming back for seconds. Frozen vegetables make this simple family dish even easier to make and enjoy.

                  Find the recipe here.

                  9. Mozzarella, Basil, and Zucchini Frittata


                    This egg dish is usually served for breakfast, but a frittata can make a fantastic dinner, too. High in protein, packed with zucchini, and delicious, there’s no reason to wait until morning.

                    Try it tonight. Get the recipe here.

                    10. Chicken and Sweet Potato Grill Packets

                      Skip the pans and throw everything into foil with this fun family recipe. Kids will love loading ingredients into their pack, and you’ll love its versatility and simplicity.

                      The recipe for this meal can be found here.

                      11. Chicken and Spanish “Rice”

                        Cauliflower takes the place of rice in this low-carb family meal, but it’s so flavorful and filling, no one will miss it.

                        Find the recipe here.

                        12. Honey Chicken Stir Fry

                          This honey chicken stir fry is the healthier version of a restaurant favorite that can be served up quicker than you can order it.

                          Find the recipe here.

                          13. Chicken Skewers With Tzatziki

                            Greek chicken and tzatziki sauce will have you yearning for the Mediterranean, but you can make this recipe at home for your family to enjoy.

                            This easy recipe can be found here.


                            14. Healthy Walking Tacos

                              Traditional walking tacos are a party favorite, but they’re not usually healthy. However, this recipe keeps it fun while making it more nutritious.

                              Find out how to make it here.

                              15. Slow-Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup

                                This classic comfort meal can be ready when you walk in the door. All you have to do is add noodles, and it’s ready to serve.

                                The recipe can be found here.

                                16. Cheesy Chicken and Rice Casserole

                                  This usually takes a little over an hour, but the preparation time is only 30 minutes. You’ll love how easy it is, and the cheesy rice is sure to please.

                                  Find the recipe here.

                                  17. Crockpot Rotisserie-Style Chicken

                                    Skip the checkout line and have a rotisserie-style chicken ready at home. A staple in many quick meals, you might find this family meal recipe among your most-used.

                                    Get the recipe for this flavorful chicken here.

                                    18. Santa Monica Street Tacos

                                      Named after a simple taco found on the streets of California, you’ll be surprised that something with only a few ingredients can be so flavorful. Your kids will surely enjoy them.


                                      Find the recipe here.

                                      19. Pizza Pasta Salad

                                        Enjoy the flavor of pizza without the hassle of making a crust. Use a fun pasta shape to make this even more appealing to your family, especially kids.

                                        Try it tonight. Get the recipe here.

                                        20. Slow-Cooker Lasagna Soup

                                          Everyone loves lasagna, but it can be time-consuming and messy to make. However, this soup version has the taste you want but with the ease of a crockpot.

                                          Get the recipe here.

                                          Bonus: 3 Simple Ways to Make Meals Healthier

                                          Eating healthy doesn’t have to take a lot of money, time, or thought. Any improvements are a big step in the right direction.

                                          Here are three easy ways you can make meals healthier for your family.

                                          1. Lose the Sugar

                                          Are you looking to improve your health? Cut processed sugars from your diet—the more, the better, and that includes artificial sweeteners.[1] Why? Studies show that sugar increases the risks for weight gain, heart disease, acne, type-2 diabetes, depression, cancer, fatty liver disease, cellular aging, and low energy levels.[2]

                                          2. Avoid Highly Processed Foods

                                          Many processed foods are fine to eat. Even fresh fruit and vegetables go through some processing to stay fresh longer. However, highly processed foods have added salt, sweeteners, saturated fats, preservatives, and artificial colors. These types of food have been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.[3]

                                          3. Replace Simple Carbs for Complex Carbs

                                          Lowering daily carbs can do wonders for your health. Studies show that low-carb diets lead to lower insulin levels, lower bad cholesterol levels, visceral fat loss, weight loss, reduced appetite, and can be therapeutic for many brain disorders.[4]

                                          When eating carbs, choose complex carbs over simple carbs. Simple carbs, such as white flour, rice, and degermed cornmeal, lack nutrients and spike blood sugar levels. Complex carbs, such as sweet potato, brown rice, and oats, are usually more nutritious and aren’t digested as quickly, giving more sustained energy and less of an insulin spike.[5]

                                          Enjoy Family Meals With Less Stress!

                                          Dinner can be enjoyable again now that you’re armed with simple and nutritious recipes for your family. These healthy and tasty family meal recipes can help you feel even better about what you serve. Best of all, you’ll have the extra time and energy you saved from cooking and spend more time with your family.


                                          More Healthy Eating Tips

                                          Featured photo credit: Jimmy Dean via


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