Pants on Fire!

September 27, 2007

When did this happen?

We always tell each other the truth in this house. We are always open and honest and I know this because it is quite difficult for me to do, so it takes extra effort on my part. And I won’t lie to my husband. (Unless of course he comes to the door for a quickie…then I’ll stretch the truth a little.) *snort*

You see, I’m a white liar.

If I don’t feel like going to a playdate, I make up an excuse. If I have to cancel a Doctor’s appointment, I make up an excuse. If I haven’t called someone back, in say, decades I’ll make up an excuse. If Fa asks if we have any more Chocolate Ice Cream at 8pm I’ll say she ate it all, even if it is sitting high up in the freezer. A white lie. Small and seemingly harmless.

However, the walls have ears. I am learning this.

Fa is starting to lie to us.

And I can read it in her eyes.

You can’t bullshit a bullshitter, is what I always say.

They say, it takes years of watching people lie to learn the nuances and acceptable ways to do it. Lying, they say, begins at about 4+ (hmmm) where children learn that there is more than one point of view, other than their own. They make up elaborate and creative stories to see how believable they are. Fa is a storyteller at heart. That was a given right away. But now she’s telling untrue stores to avoid “the wrath of Mom”. She lies to not get caught.

Children learn early (ahem) that stating the untruth can get them out of sticky situations and perhaps punishment if they are believable. And Fa is so good at it that I just might believe her if her eyes didn’t dart back and forth as she is telling her lie, or if her slight hesitation didn’t give her away.

I am trying not to be angry at this. But I feel like I am a failure at trust. I have spent every night for the past 45 months telling Fa as I tuck her in bed that, “Mommy loves her no matter what, and she can tell Mommy anything.”

I am teaching her the value of trust as we speak. How to trust that when I leave her at school, I will come back for her. How to trust that I would never let anything bad happen to her. How to trust that I give her Chocolate Ice Cream in limited supply to keep her insides healthy but her soul happy. How to trust that my hand is waiting for her to cross the street or to catch her when she stumbles. Or if she lies to me.

But I am starting not to trust her.

It’s fine when she tells stories about aliens on planet Saturn and how her and her teachers tried to capture them. Or how she ate snails for snack. I know that’s make believe. She also tells about believable points in her school day that sound like so much fun. She honestly sounds like she is enjoying school. The smile on her face when I pick her up doesn’t lie.

However, she’s been telling me stories about school that I’m not sure to believe. She says that no one wants to play with her, but then she says she played tag with her friends. She tells me she goes to the potty on her own, but then she tells me that the teacher helps her, or she holds it in.

Well, I think she’s holding it in. Because, she is exhibiting pain when she goes now. Like a UTI. But I can’t get the truth out of her. The real truth. I see it when she goes, that it hurts. But she would never admit to pain. I see it when she can’t hold it in and when the urgency takes over. But she doesn’t admit the truth.

I understand that lying is a major part of her brain development. It is helping her become her.
However, when does lying become dangerous?

And when do I, as her mother, caregiver, protector, accept certain white lies but punish her for lies that could put her in danger. How do I trust myself enough to know the difference?



  1. You are right on the money here. My kids hit that lying stage about the same time, especially Princess (big surprise)!

    You are paying attention, which is great. But lying is lying. I personally have a REAL issue with it.

    At first I explained to the jailbait, um, child, that lying is not acceptable, a no-no, however they can understand it. And that they will get punished when…WHEN we find out that there was lying involved. Thank GOODNESS kids are good at it, but not as good as WE are. LOL

    Upon seeing the shifty eyes, I say, “You might as well tell me the truth now, because I WILL find out if it’s a truth or a lie.”

    Sigh. It’s so tough. .

    J, you will know when to punish and when to let things go by, or address them with just conversation and teaching. Trust yourself!

    And do I look fat in these pants? Don’t LIE! LOL

  2. I certainly hope as a mom you find the answers you need. A touch issue I am sure many of us moms will face at one time or another.. Good luck:)

  3. arg. A friend of mine explained this perfectly. It is not so much as lying at this age … more that they want to believe it to be true so bad that they do. Still not acceptable & needs to be addressed but do not think sociopath, merely Fa processing her day and figuring out the world.


  4. Its been a long time since I’ve had to (thankfully) deal with this. And I remember my sister going through it w/my niece. I think we just kept letting the girls know that lying is not acceptable and we’re on their side so they can tell us ANYTHING. I’m sure that helped.

    But like you said, her exression is a dead give away so you’re growing right along with her. You’ll be able to stop it before it gets out of hand. As far as the UTI thing my little one had the same thing & held it forever. I had to take her to the dr, against her will of course, but after she felt better the trust was reestablished and viola! Things are better between us again.

    Wow. Parenting is a tough job, huh?

  5. Wish I had the answers for this one but I am still struggling with it and the gnomes are teenagers that know better now…but that doesn’t stop them. They have become pretty good at lying which of course irritates me to no end…

    Ever since they were little, I went out of my way to be honest even when the questions were hard..we have talked about sex, drugs, smoking…while trying to be age-appropriate of course.

    It hurts me that I can’t trust them…and tells me I have failed them…and let them down as a Mom…but all I can do it keep trying to do better and hope some day something will “click” for them..

    We have to have hope…there is no other choice…even when it isn’t easy….

    hang in there…remember you are never alone.

  6. When my kids caught me in little white lies, I explained that I was not telling the truth to avoid hurting someones feelings. It may be wrong, but I will still do this. I would much rather tell someone that I am too busy to attend a function then to say ‘I don’t like you..’ or whatever.
    It is sticky when they are so young.
    You’re a good mom, and you will know what to do when the time comes πŸ™‚

  7. No advice here but experiencing something similar. What I find is that getting them to understand the concept of lying and how harmful it can be is a little challenging sometimes. Especially when you’re trying to encourage imagination… Yes the two concepts are different but my 4 year olds don’t always get that.
    I’m eager to hear what others have to say.

  8. I wish I knew the answers here. I suspect that lying is normal, but you’re right…when is it dangerous? I’m eager to see what others have to say.

  9. I haven’t reached this milestone with my son, so this is more support rather than real life advice… SO here goes…

    I have read that lying at this stage isn’t about being dishonest in the same way that lying to a spouse would be(white lies aside, of course). At Fa’s age its more about having a healthy imagination and, as you said, considering a reality other than their own. They also have a hard time determining the difference between what’s real and wishes.

    It’s like when my 4 y/o niece tells her preschool teacher about going to LA to visit her cousins and go to “Mickey’s House” (Disneyland)… In your dreams, baby.

    I’ve heard the best way to deal with it is not to get mad, but rather just play along in a way that acknowledges it’s a fantasy. Like if she says “I rode a pony to school”. You say, “Well, I rode a YAK to the gym.” πŸ™‚

    Once she gets older (6 or 7), she’ll begin to realize what it means to lie and you can start having talks about honesty and trust.

    Again, this is just what I’ve read… not experienced. I hope whatever you do works for the best πŸ™‚

  10. Ugh. Let me know the answer when you find it. The Mayor just plain makes sh*t up.

  11. Everything we do for our kids then all the sudden, they want to act like us.

    What did we do to deserve this?

  12. Ugh. The lying. Elliot too tells me off and on that her poop or her pee hurts her. I often wonder when I should take her to the doctor, or if she’s just making stuff up (which she does ALL the time).

  13. Isn’t it brutal when you learn that your child is capable of lying to you?! My daughter has started already and she is only 2 1/2! What’s with that?
    All we can do is tell them over.and.over.and.over.again….how important it is to tell the truth.
    I really like how you tuck your daughter in at night–what a great way to really make that sink in. We do love our children no matter what and it is so very important that they feel comfortable to tell us anything–it’s never too early to start telling them that!

  14. The battle is in teaching the child that the lying is worse than the action they are trying to cover up.

    Punishment(a small hurt now to prevent a large hurt later) should be greater for the lie.

    I know that now – I’m not sure what I did when the kids were small.

    (screamed, cried, cajoled, held my aching head, and threatened??)

  15. OH the tangle webs they weave!

    I’ve found that some of these lies, ie saying they didn’t play with anyone yet admit to it later, is more about Payton not wanting to open up to me yet than deliberate lying. He’s simply not ready to talk about his day. I’ve learned to not ask about his day until about dinner time.

    I remember when I was a kid and I said these grayish area lies to my mom, it was more about wanting to keep something to myself at the time than it being about lying.

    As far as when it would become dangerous, I think you’ll know. At her age, I would look more towards the lies that would hurt other people, like hitting a child and denying, or vice versa. And of course, lies that could hurt her.

    This whole parenting thing…not an easy job!

  16. So far, I have been able to just sit down with Princess and say, “It is okay if you don’t want to . . . *insert here* but mommy needs to know so that we can keep you healthy . . . *or other reason*. So far that always leads to confessions.

  17. Tough call. I think, like some of your other commenters, that she just wants these things to be true and therefore does it.

    I have teenagers, one of whom lies to me every time he gets in trouble at school. And for what, I just don’t know. I always find out what’s going on anyway, and then he’s in trouble for lying!

  18. I also struggle with the lying issues. My kids do it and I just keep reiterating that they will get into more trouble for getting caught in a lie than if they told the truth to begin with.

  19. The telling of stories.

    I think reality and fantasy blur in their little brains. But they are smart.

    bigirl can’t lie to save her life. littlegirl on the other hand I need to watch a little more closely.

    I have a mild fear of the coming teen years…..

  20. The Princess has been going through the same thing. She’s started to lie too and I hate it. She has to pay me a ticket when she lies…

    Oddly, the Princess was also exhibiting UTI symptoms also. I took her to the doctor but the doctor said it wasn’t a UTI but that it was red. She told me the following:
    -No bubble baths– just use plain old water. Do the actual washing outside of water or better yet, give her showers.

    -Keep teaching better bathroom wiping skills. Much of it usually caused because no one is actually monitoring how they wipe while at school.

    -Use A&D ointment (not the cream) especially on the days that she goes to school.

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