The first time my son lied to me I was like, “Oh boy, here we go!” It had begun. He had discovered the art of not telling the truth. His recent lie happened yesterday.
He came into the living room, after waking up, holding his stomach and saying, “My belly hurts. I have to stay home from school today.” I knew something smelled fishy, but I played along. “Oh no! If your belly hurts you need to get back in bed and stay there all day, Max. No school for you.” That is when I saw the panicked look in his eyes. His lie was not leading to the results he wanted. To stay in bed all day is Max’s kryptonite, but he did not cave. He remained quiet. I went about my usual morning routine and ignored him. All the while he sat there in turmoil. What to do? Admit the lie? Stick with it and be tortured, in bed all day?
Small sigh, “Yes, Mom.”
I sat next time him and asked gently, “Is that the truth?”
He shakes his head, no.
Small victory for Mom! He told the truth! Now what do I do??
I ask, “Do you not want to go to school today?”
He shakes his head again.
“Can you tell me why?”
“I want to play video games.” He looks up at me with a glimmer of hope in his eyes.
“Well, you know that today is not a video game day ( I only allow it on certain days or he’d turn into a video game zombie), but all of your friends will be at school today, and you will go outside to play. It is so beautiful.”
He relents and gets ready. VICTORY IS MINE!
Before he left for school I reminded him again that he needs to tell me the truth. I pointed out that if he always lied like that I’d never believe him when he was really sick. Did it sink in? Probably not. It takes children quite a number of times to understand what you want and why you want it. In the mean time, I’ll need to keep my guard up.
My son, the little liar. His moral compass is askew! Ok, that is a little dramatic. In fact, it is just plain wrong. The truth is- I’m a liar. You are one too.
We tell lies for the greater good, we tell them out of selfishness, and we tell them just to be bad! We do not even realize it, but we are teaching our children to do the same. I think everyone has taught their child to lie for the greater good, at one time or another.
“Just tell Grandma you love her chicken. It will make her feel so good.”
“When everyone asks you if you are having a fun time tonight, say yes! It would be really rude if you said no.”
“No, you do not look fat in that dress.”
Small little lies to keep the peace and to not hurt feelings. We like those lies. Unfortunately, that is not the only ones we tell. I forget how active Max’s ears are. He is listening all the time! He has heard me “make up an excuse” to not go to a party.
“Sorry, I’m just not feeling well. I must have that stomach bug going around.”
Max sees that I am perfectly healthy and the wheels in his head start to turn. Mom is onto something, because she got her way by making up a story. And thus, I’ve created a monster.
Perhaps, you never lie (or at least not around your children), but they still end up weaving stories that just aren’t true. Do not worry. It is normal. In fact, lying is a sign of complex thinking in young children! The brain is growing and that is good thing!
Tips and Tricks
If you have a child that loves to tell fantastical stories, that he insists are true (In school today my teacher grew wings and flew around, kind of stories), put a positive spin on it. Start writing them down or having your child draw pictures. What a wonderful imagination! You might have an author on your hands.
Keep calm! Do not take it personally. If you find yourself getting angry or frustrated step back and take a moment. Your goal is to find out why your child lied and to have them be able to talk with you about it. How can that happen if they feel threatened? If your child is scared to talk with you, then this will become a huge problem.
When they do tell the truth, you need to remain calm. Thank them for being honest and make sure the consequence fits the crime. It is not about blame, but rather getting to the root of the problem.
Talk about it. What will happen if they lie all the time? How will that make everyone feel? Tell your child how it makes you feel!
Set an example. Tell the truth to your child. I took Max to the doctor and he asked me if he was getting a shot. I told him yes, which upset him (to put it mildly). When I later spoke about lying with him I used that as an example. Would he have trusted me if I told him he was not getting a shot, but got one anyway?
Sometimes the truth sucks, but we have to say it anyway.
- I Cannot Tell A Lie: Is Fibbing Normal? (kidzedge.com)
- When your Preschooler Lies (ctworkingmoms.com)
- Learn How to Raise a Virtuous, Honest Child – Without Punishment (sensoryedge.com)