Oh the Lies!

I have a child who lies.  A LOT.  All three of them went through a time of doing so; but one does it to an extreme.  Pretty much, if he is speaking, there is a good chance, well over 50-50, he is lying.

Woman in office at school using a playful tone:  Oh, and where have you been?
My child: At home
I look at him incredulously as I hand the doctor note to the front desk woman.

WHY?

Mom:  Did you wet your pants?
Child: No.
Mom: Are you sure?  If you did, you need to go change.
Child, in a “doncha know” voice: I didn’t!
Mom: Let me see
Pants were wet.

WHY?

Mom: Wow, that was fast.  Did you eat it all?
Child: Yep
Mom: Are you sure?
Child, in an “of course” voice, speaking emphatically: Yes!
Mom: I’m going to have to go check.
Child: okay <shrug>
I start doubting.  Maybe he really did eat it.  Maybe I shouldn’t doubt him so much.  But it just doesn’t seem likely.  As I walk to the trash, I don’t even see the wrapper on top of the quite full can.  I start wondering what he did with it.  Then I see it, in a fast food cup. As I reach for it, I can tell the food is still there.  I open it, seeing over half of it. Dang!
Mom: We have a problem.  Do you know what it is?
Child: I didn’t eat my food.
Mom: No, that is not the problem.  That is little.  So you didn’t eat it.  We probably could have left the rest for snack or something.  But we have a REAL problem.  Do you know what it is?
Child: I lied.

WHY?

Now I know that I did THE worst thing a mom who knows her child lies or would be tempted to lie:  I asked him a question to which he could lie.

Most of the time, I don’t think of it as a “I’m gonna catch you moment.”  When I first asked about eating the item, I really was thinking, “wow, that was fast.”  I was impressed, not thinking, “oh, wait a minute.  My kids who NEVER eats a decent speed or amount happened to eat THAT big thing THAT quickly?  No way.  Now let’s see if he lies about it.”  Seriously, I didn’t go there.

And I wasn’t USUALLY thinking about the likeliness of him lying when I asked about wetting his pants (on purpose) either.  Mostly, I have a busy household and need the kid in clean clothes should someone come to the door or we have to leave in five minutes flat or or or or. But knowing that he’s going to pee the second he gets angry or scared or whatever does make me ask.   However, I do have to say that one of THE things that worked to get him to stop doing it was to say, “if you wet yourself, please go take care of it.”  Well, and doing similarly regarding the things that would have triggered peeing anyway.

Anyway, I don’t think he means to lie.  I think it just comes out.  When it is easier to tell the truth, he still lies.

Mom: Did you put up your towel?
Child: No.
Mom: Please go do so.
Child walks back towards room then comes back out.
Mom: Where’s your towel?
Child gives look saying, “I lied again.”

WHY?

Sometimes I probe after something like that.  I mean, really, WHY would you lie to possibly GET in trouble?  That makes no sense.  I can see lying to get out of trouble.  Lying because you threw away half a sandwich makes sense.  Lying that you didn’t do something you know you did?  Not so much.

One day, one of my boys was four years old and got in trouble RIGHT after waking up.  It was something that we had been working on so I decided to give a short time out for it.  The child sat on his bed for 2 or 3 minutes.  Upon getting up, he went in the livingroom and the rule was reiterated.  Because of the urination issue, Dad asked if he had wet his pants.  He said yes.  Dad told him to go change.  He spent a long time in his room.  I go check on him,  “What are you doing?”
Child: I don’t know.
Mom: What are you supposed to be doing?
Child: Changing
I look around, pull back the blanket, am confused.
Mom: When did you wet?  Sitting in time out?
Child: yes
Mom: The bed isn’t wet.
Child looks blankly at mom.
Mom: You didn’t wet your pants?
Child: No
Mom: Then why on earth would you tell your father you did?

Seriously, I simply don’t get it.

Why?

BTW, I prided myself, the first time around parenting, that my kids weren’t into lying.  It was, of course, that I had such a great relationship with them.  I also attributed it to using positive, non-punitive discipline.  They weren’t fearful of or trying to avoid punishment because we didn’t use those things.  My kids, my easy one and my challenging one, just didn’t lie.  I HATE lying with a passion.  I won’t tell you your dress is pretty if it is hideous.  Before caller ID, I didn’t tell people the person they were calling for wasn’t home if they were.  I just hate lying!  And so I was pretty proud of myself when my first set of kids didn’t do it.

But as with so many things with parenting, if you have enough children, you’ll be humbled.  In this case, it has been times three with one of them sticking with it and doing it to an extreme.  Peeing your pants or not finishing a snack or meal won’t get you punishment.  Lying most certainly will.

Today, I asked, “whatcha thinking?” after we handled the punishment and discussion about the lying.
Child: I don’t know (in a “how am I supposed to know” tone)
Mom: You know what I *wish* you were thinking?
Child: What?
Mom:  I wish you would say something like, “I’m sorry for lying, for disappointing you and Jehovah God.”
I looked at him, about to get up and let that settle.
Child:  I am thinking that now.
He makes a half of step closer to me.  A tear runs down his cheek.
I hug him and pray with him.
We both start crying. I think he really was sorry.  He just didn’t know to be before I suggested it.  I don’t know what to think about that.  I don’t know what to do about that.  But I am really glad we ended up on the same side, together, begging for guidance.

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3 thoughts on “Oh the Lies!

  1. I think there are a few additional reasons to lie aside from fear of punishment.
    1) Because it’s what the adult is thinking anyway and the adult must be right.
    2) Because you’d rather the lie were true and you’re not clear that saying things happened doesn’t make them happen.
    3) Because you believe you are bad and deserve to be punished and/or disapproved of and lying will do that to you.
    4) For control: the adult is then forced to check up on you. This can also go back to #2. If you say something happened, doesn’t that just make it happen? So it can be a way of asserting control over reality.

    Kids who lie sometimes also had parents who lied, sometimes for reason #2–that lingering lack of understanding that words don’t create reality. Magical thinking tends to linger in these kinds of families, and while your kids may not have been around long enough to see it demonstrated in their first homes, they might have.

    I hope this one sorts itself out.

    • We really have come to believe that this child in particular thinks he is bad, wants us to think he is bad, wants us to treat him as if he is bad. Because of that, we have chosen to be very careful with our responses. Of course, that is easier because 1) we truly believe in better discipline than punishment though this post may not show it very well and 2) it seems nothing works anyway. But it is also harder not to think poorly of him because there is so often an issue. Thankfully, medication has made that less of an issue because he isn’t nearly as constant in his behaviors now that he is on medication.

      It can be really hard though. My kids are the kind who prove that getting them early is no promise they just need love and discipline and will be fine. At the same time, they HAVE proven that love and trying to help them heal can engender amazing progress!

      • That is so very sad for a kid to feel that way about himself, but it does make sense. I hope he starts to understand the concept of forgiveness, and can someday see that whatever his flaws he can still be accepted and loved.

        Healing from the kinds of things your kids have been through can take a very long time. It really does.

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