Kids lie, so let’s take a look at an age by age guide to why they do it.
Toddlers: It is during the toddler stage when the first fibs are told. It might be something like saying they are not in a dirty diaper when they so obviously are. They don’t want to go through a diaper change, so they lie about it. Toddlers lie only to self-serve. In other words, they deny something they have done, or lie to get something for themselves. They will say they ate all of their dinner so they can have dessert. Most toddlers do not even know this is wrong.
Preschoolers: Make up stories. It is between the ages of 3 and 5 that kids start to mix reality with imagination and create lies that are really not lies; they are their alternate realities. These are usually things like imaginary friends, and are often just tall tales for fun or wishful thinking. They may, however, insist their stories are true.
Schoolkids: White lies. It is the school age when kids start to use sensors, and develop the white lies, the ones that benefit someone else or are told to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. This is often forgiven because it is a sign of social awareness and sensitivity. In addition to white lies, many children at this age lie by omission. Why? Usually there is a good reason. For example, they’re afraid of how disappointed you’ll be if they flunk a quiz or they fear the punishment they’ll get for “forgetting” to tell you about parent-teacher conferences because they’re falling behind in a class. At other times they lie because they can’t do something. For example, they might lie and say they have no geography homework, even though they do, because it is hard and they do not understand it.
Tweens: At this stage you see the truth being stretched a lot. At this stage your child is growing up, and they start to take advantage of the “blind” trust you have in them. They may ask you to trust them, and then deliberately violate your trust, just to see what you will do. For example, you may ask them to clean their room before they go to the movies with their friends; they will tell you it is done so they can go with their friends. If you check, you will probably find it is not done. They may be lying because it is a convenient way to get out of doing things they do not want to, or they may be lying because they are too stressed to tell the truth. Lies buy them time and get them out of situations they can’t handle. So, if your tween lies about test scores or homework, for example, you may want to find out what is troubling them and, rather than punish them harshly, try to resolve the underlying problem.
Teens: Teens know the difference between right and wrong, and when they lie, it is usually for self-serving, manipulative reasons. They tell you their car battery was dead to get out of a punishment for breaking curfew. They say their wallet got stolen when they blow through their allowance early in the month and want to do something later. Basically, they find it more convenient than the truth. When you catch them in a lie, they should be punished accordingly.