How we teach children to lie

Cover of "True Lies"

Yes. It is we, the parents, who teach them to lie. And this is how:

Jane: Ender? Did you poop your pants?

Ender: Yes.

Jane: Oh, Jeezus, Ender, how could you? I just asked you if you needed to go 10 minutes ago. Fucking hell, and now I have to change your poopy bum, and it is so disgusting, yuck…

What happens next time?

Jane: Ender? Did you make a poop?

Ender: No.

Jane: Of course you did! Why are you lying to me?

We ask a question. We get the truthful answer. We don’t like what we hear. We freak. We repeat this cycle. The result: we teach the child to lie.

And it’s so simple Do this instead:

 Jane: Ender? Did you poop your pants?

Ender: Yes.

Jane: Let’s go clean your bum. Tell mama next time as soon as you feel you need to go, ok?

Better yet, don’t ask questions to which you know the answer, right? Ya’ know he pooped. Ya’ can smell it. Just say this:

 Jane: Let’s go clean your bum, dude, and then we can go back to playing.

I chose the toilet training example because it’s almost invariably the topic of a new parent’s first “My child has started to lie! What do I do?” And we just don’t realize that we’ve been coaching them to lie to us by how we react to the truth.

Children—all people—lie to protect themselves. They lie because they learn that their parents—others around them—do not actually want to hear the truth. They lie because we teach them to.

You do not “teach” a child to be truthful by talking about how important it is to tell the truth.

Instead, you “don’t teach” them to lie by accepting the truth when they tell it to you. By fostering an environment and a relationship, in which saying “I pooped my pants,” “I broke the lamp,” “I lost my mittens,” “I don’t like this supper” is okay and doesn’t lead to a parental shit storm.

Cinder: Mom! I think I broke the X-box! Help!

Music to my ears.

Flora: I’m sorry, Mom, but I just don’t like this soup.


Ender: Mama: I pooped my pants!

That’s what I want to hear.

English: A soapbox at Occupy Boston

This soap box moment brought to you by the fact that I very much need  a reminder not to  teach my children to lie.

Digression: the antidote to Black Friday madness: Get Less Today.

Promotion: I’m playing at the More than Mommies Mixer again this Friday:

because last Friday, it introduced me to two of my now-favourite bloggers, Cloudy With a Chance of Wine and Janine’s Confessions of a Mommyaholic, and I wonder where it will take me today…

The mixer blog roll is here, and Fishtank Mom, you should come play too.

If you’re visiting from the MTMM, please feel free to link up below (in the comments) to a specific post you’d think I’d enjoy. And… happy Friday hopping.

6 thoughts on “How we teach children to lie

  1. Truly wonderful post and can’t say enough that I think as mothers we do this all the time and just don’t realize it. Thanks for the gentle reminder that it is Ok to teach our kids that they don’t have to be perfect and that they can make mistakes.

  2. This is such an awesome post. I’ve never really thought about how we can teach our kids to lie, but this makes perfect sense to me. Thanks for reminding me to pause and THINK about what I say (and how I show my frustration). That is a really important lesson!

    And thanks so much for mentioning me in this post! That’s so awesome of you!!! I am loving your blog, too. You have amazing talent, my friend!


  3. So true! And yes, for us the lying started with this whole potty-training thing too. Thanks for the reminder to be mindful and thanks for linking up with the #MTMmixer 🙂

  4. Pingback: How we teach children to lie, without realizing it #attachmentparenting | Nothing By The Book

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