Lies, truth, consequences

Hi 4Moms,

I am concerned that my child’s “little white lies” are becoming a problem. Does anyone have suggestions for “curing” my nine year old of this horrible habit? My mother used to tell me when I was a child, “If you’ve done something wrong and tell the truth about it, I will be easier on you than if you lie about it when I ask you about it”. I convey this message to my kid and she stands firm that she is telling the truth. It infuriates me to think that she is not telling the truth and yet part of me always doubts her even when she seems to be truthful.

We are not talking about a kid who is constantly naughty or spoiled rotten. This kid has rules and boundaries that I am consistent with and I follow through on the punishments I give. This issue is just a small one now but I worry if I don’t nip it in the bud, I will be threatening my 22 year old that her nose will grow if she tells a lie. Any pearls of wisdom or unique tricks to solve my dilemma?

Signed, Dreaming of the truth

Audrey answers:

Kids lie, yes they do. And so did we. I'm not an expert on the stages of growth but it seems to me that we all had that “Aha!” moment when we realized that we could withhold the truth or lie to our parents. What power! Perhaps all we can do is model honesty and authenticity with our kids. So, we don't get to lie in front of them, saying, “ I'd love to come!” to an unwanted invitation and then making up an excuse later on. Kids can sense a line of “malarky” from a mile away, so we can't say, “No, your Uncle Theodore does not smell!” when both you and your 6 year old have had to share a long car ride with said hygiene-challenged uncle. It isn't always easy. At some point, some friend is going to lie to your daughter. If you are lucky, she'll come to you and then you both can talk about how lying hurts. Or, the next time you know she's lied, wait a couple of hours and then tell her that you made her favorite dessert. When she's eaten her dinner, and looking forward to her big, delicious piece of chocolate cake tell her, “Sorry, I lied!” That should get a dialogue started, while the two of you make the chocolate cake together.

Rachel responds:

For a very brief period, when my younger son, Emmett, was about 5, he told a few lies. When I caught him in one, we talked about how important it is to build trust, and how easy it is to lose that trust. When I asked him if he had told other lies, he remembered 3 or 4 times. To this day, if we have a conversation about honesty, he remembers those incidents.

If your daughter isn’t willing to fess up, I think it is time to begin discipline. Make it dramatic, like sending her to her room for a whole day. It is critical to impress upon her the importance of honesty. I only had to send my older son, Noah, to his room for a whole day once. After that he knew that I meant business. With Emmett, I never had to do it because he saw what a bummer it was for Noah and learned from his brother’s experience. (Would that we all could do that!)

(Incidentally, I have Noah and Emmett’s permission to share this!)

Kathy adds:

I confess I am going through a little bit of this myself right now. I have a 10 year old who literally will be caught in the act of doing something, and deny, deny, deny that he is doing it. Then he gets incredibly offended and teary that I don’t believe him when he says he wasn’t ….pushing someone into the pool. When I clearly saw it with my own eyes! I have decided to play hardball and take Rachel and Audrey’s advice, because this makes me crazy with anger. I just don’t get it! We are going to have a heart to heart about it, discuss issues of trust, and come up with a plan for the consequences going forward. I am also going to start making statements and stop asking him questions that give him an opportunity to lie to me. For example, rather than saying: “Why did you push Jack in the pool? I will say, “I saw you push Jack in the pool. You and your friends are being too rough with each other and it’s not safe. You are also setting a bad example for your little brother and his friends. Someone is going to get hurt. If I see that behavior again, we are leaving.” I am hoping it works! I will let you know how it goes……

2 Responses to "Lies, truth, consequences"

Rachel Nguyen responded on June 15, 2008 at 7:43 PM #

Kathy,

I love your approach to make a statement rather than ask a question. That is great!

Emercenary responded on June 17, 2008 at 8:36 AM #

Good advice... except for that chocolate cake switcheroo! That's just too harsh, in my opinion. You said it yourself, Mom, it's better to set a good example.. but maybe its just another one of Bill Cosby's lessons on parenting?