When she was a toddler, she was so honest with me, almost to a fault. It was as though she was simply incapable of lying. But with her newfound confidence as a six-year-old, she has discovered that she can withhold the truth, and even lie to avoid facing the consequences that might come with the truth.
I recently caught her in a lie, and as she spouted out a descriptive re-enactment of what had happened, my heart sank. She spoke with emotion, emphasized details, and even shed a few tears as she told me her story. I would have believed her story – if I hadn’t come to the conversation equipped with facts to back up the truth. She’s a good little actress – a skill which I’m not sure yet is an asset or a liability.
I didn’t want to call my little girl a liar, even though I knew she was in fact lying to my face.
So I did what I always do: I asked my mama for advice. My mom is an expert, and has always been my go-to for parenting advice. She advises her friends, fellow foster parents, my siblings, acquaintances, and even some of my friends who need answers to tough parenting questions.
Here’s a summary of what she said to me:
1) DON’T call your child out for lying. The truth is, we lie to them all the time. Santa Claus. The Easter Bunny. The Tooth Fairy. We have to be very careful about how we broach the subject of lying because they will one day discover the lies that we’ve told them.
2) Emphasize the importance of telling the truth. Tell them “the truth will set you free”. Remind your child that being dishonest will lead you into a web of lies, and will result in consequences.
3) This is an opportunity to establish a close relationship with your child. Reassure her that if she is honest with you about something, no matter what it may be, she will not get in trouble. If she is not honest, there will be consequences.
4) DON’T overreact when she does tell the truth. Showing your child that you can remain calm, provide advice and guidance, and keep your cool, will keep the channels of communication open as she grows and experiences new things. If she feels as though she can trust you, she will come to you as a confidante, knowing that you won’t punish her for her curiosity.
5) If she confesses to lying, and then tells the truth, don’t get mad. Focus on the positive. Tell her how proud you are of her decision to tell the truth, and remind her that you will never get mad if she is completely honest with you. Don’t focus on the fact that she had lied at first because you are still establishing trust.
I followed my mama’s advice. Instead of calling her out for lying, I said, “Sweetheart, that sounds like a very interesting story, but I can tell by the look in your eye that you’re not being completely honest with me. I feel as though there is more to the story. I just want you to know that I love you, and that you will never get in trouble if you tell me the truth or ask questions that you think might get you in trouble. You can always come to me and I will never get mad at you for being honest. But if I find out that you’ve been dishonest with me, there will be consequences for lying. I’m going to trust that you will do the right thing, and am here for you when you’re ready to talk.”
And you know what? She came to me, and confessed. All on her own accord. We had a long heart-to-heart, and I feel like we’ve established a new level of mother-daughter trust.
And so begins the slow ascent to the dreaded teen years. I’m just so thankful that I have my mom as backup for the parenting growing pains! And how you can benefit from her advice too.
ABOUT MAMA DINA:
Mama Dina is a consummate mother, adoptive mother, stepmother, foster mother and grandmother. For over 30 years, she worked as an early childhood educator, and is fully trained and experienced in the Montessori educational approach. She has over 15 years of experience as a foster parent to children from all walks of life, many of whom have special needs. She provides emergency respite care for the foster care system, and acts as a ‘baby whisperer’ for preemie twins on a part-time basis. Her educational background includes training in child psychology, ECE, infant-toddler development, and various areas of special needs (ARBD, FASD, ADHD). Mama Dina’s lifelong passion has been children. She understands typical and atypical child development and behaviour, and combines her magic formula of unconditional love and consistency to enhance each child’s potential. She is also my beloved mama, and I am so blessed that she chose me to be her daughter.
Has your child ever been caught in a lie? How did you react?