“How do you handle lying?”

“Ask Flora”, where you can ask your parenting questions (for ages 2-10), to Flora McCormick, Licensed Counselor & Parenting Coach at Sustainable Parenting.

Question 1: “How do you handle lying? We keep having an issue of sneaking into mommy’s makeup and then lying about it even though the evidence is all over her face (makeup everywhere).” – Alison D.

The first thing to know is that lying is very developmentally common.  “Conventional wisdom long held that young children were not capable of lying. More recent research, however, has found that most children learn to lie effectively between the ages of 2 and 4.” – scholastic.com  

Wondering about the motivation behind lying can cause you to feel irritated, defeated, or angry.  All of those feelings are also completely common.  We do well, however, to take a step back and consider the behavior from the child’s point of view.  

A young child lying about taking your make-up (when it’s clearly all over her face), is likely lying to protect against an unwanted consequence or to avoid taking responsibility and feeling shameful.  Essentially, we can see the lie as the child wishing they didn’t have to take responsibility for what they did.  So, here’s what I recommend:

  1. Don’t set the child up for lying:

If you see the makeup on her face, instead of asking “Did you get into my makeup?”, say, “I see you got into my makeup.”

  1. Focus on learning, rather than shame:

    “I have told you my makeup is off-limits.  That was a sad choice, that you got into the makeup anyway.  I know that I have made sad choices sometimes too, and didn’t do what I knew was the best thing to do.  Mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn.”

3. Involve them in taking responsibility for the error:

“What do you think is a reasonable consequence?” or “How can we make this right?”

*Start by asking, instead of telling.  If they don’t have any ideas, then you can add what you think is reasonable and related to the behavior.  Many parents struggle to find consequences that are effective.  Reach out if you’d like help with this.


Click here to view the full magazine issue of Montana Parent.

For more tools to build up your child’s emotion-management skills, check out Chapter 1 of “How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen” or reach out to for direct parent coaching support.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *