Have You Caught Your Child Lying?

By Toni Vitanza

I guess this comes up because, if you’re watching “Nancy Grace,” or even just the news and have heard about the Casey Anthony story, you have a front-row seat to a family where parents have been listening to a child lie for, well, apparently quite some time.

But it shouldn’t take some perhaps overblown national soap opera to bring this into the open. My mom and I have both been called “reality-based” parents. Some people might think we are tough on our kids, or just suspicious by nature. (Both are probably true.) But haven’t we all seen families full of denial and enabling? I would personally rather have my son wonder whether I’d believe a given statement, than assume I will believe anything and everything he says just because he’s the one saying it.

What have you done when you caught your child red-handed (or “red-tongued”) in a lie? Did it matter if you had incontrovertible proof, or if you just “knew” it was a lie, or if it just violated all rules of common sense to the point that to believe the lie would have been insulting to your intelligence? Have you let “little” lies go — the lies that don’t really “matter” one way or the other — because you just didn’t have the time or energy, the appropriate place and time, to confront them? And only called the kid out on the biggies?

There are so many parents out there who think maybe their daughter might be pregnant, but the girl says, “Oh, I’ve just gained some weight.” (Apparently this was the case with Casey Anthony’s pregnancy.) And Mom says, “Oh, OK. Lay off the donuts, sweetheart.” Or Mom finds marijuana in the teen’s nightstand and when she’s told it’s “herbal tea,” she buys the story, or pretends to, maybe because she’s afraid of her own child, or afraid of finding out or admitting to herself (and others) that her own child isn’t perfect. That’s called denial, and enabling. It’s never healthy.

Don’t we all know parents who operate like this? Who will believe anything their child tells them, no matter how outrageous? And will deny that their child could be responsible for doing anything wrong, no matter what kind of proof is given?

We all do. It seems to me that some people — some kids — just gradually work their way up the lying ladder. They are seemingly believed for so long, by so many people, that their lies get more and more daring. My mom and I (and the counselor at our local middle school) say that, when you think your child is telling a lie, call them on it, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential it seems, right there and then. You don’t have to punish them, or hash it out, or make a big case about it every time. Just let them know that you don’t believe them. Simple as that. A lie can be inconsequential, but the truth is never inconsequential. I’m not saying that telling a single lie is proof a child is a sociopath. I am saying that letting kids think you’re not onto them is a mistake. Don’t be an enabler.

What say others? What do you think, and how have you dealt with this when you caught your child in a lie?

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