Have You Caught Your Child Lying?

Posted September 18, 2008 by

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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  1. lethania Report

    My daughter was just caught in a huge whopper of a lie.  Blaming an “unknown” child for something she had actually done to herself to gain attention of friends.  She told her friends she had told her parents about what was going on.  She had not.  We knew nothing until another parent came and told us and she was worried about my daughter.  Well as I went snooping around to find out who did this to my daughter, I found out it was all done by her, herself, made up!  now there are other children, other parents involved.  I had no idea she was such an amazing lair.  I know she’s lied to me about teeth brushing and hand washing, and I make her go back and wash or brush.. but this is crazy.  I had no idea she could lie like this!

  2. Meg from AZ Report

    My adopted 17 (almost 18) year old son has gone back to his pathologically lying ways again becauce he knows everything and we know nothing. If we confront him he tells us to “enjoy the time left of our domination over him – or to enjoy our tyrancy (is that even a word?)” Why do kids feel that everything will change when then turn 18? If they still are living under our roof then they still have to live by our rules!

  3. newmy Report

    My ex told me years ago and I’m certain my son that his father, a successful corporate attorney that lying is ok if one doesn’t get caught. If one does, blame someone else for setting you up.Usually Mom.! When son was arrested, with friends at a mere 15, Dad got him off with nary a slap on the wrist, proclaimed his innocence and accused me of wanting to hurt him because I didn’t think he should learn to con court with feigned innocence and charm. He thus taught son to ignore any laws, AND to reject my input as abuse, rather than sincere concern. Looking good on the surface has been stressed. Integrity ignored.

  4. Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor Report

    To Mel: Being lied to is one of the most frustrating things for parents to deal with. James Lehman felt that kids lie to solve problems. It’s not personal—she didn’t lie to hurt you, she lied to help herself. She had a problem which was, as you stated, the she thought you would be mad at her for meeting up with someone she met online. So she solved that problem by lying to you about what she was doing that night. The best thing to do next is to talk to her about what she could have done differently to be honest with you. The two of you can come up with a plan for next time during your calm, businesslike conversation. You should also include in your discussion your concerns about your daughter meeting people on the internet. Briefly explain why it’s not safe and problem-solve this with her as well. For example, if she wanted to make more friends what are some other ways she could do that more safely? And try not to worry about what this means about your relationship. Your daughter sounds like a good kid who made a poor choice. You can move on from this just fine. Focus on the positive the best you can and do something to take care of yourself.



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