Kids and Lying: How Do You Know Who’s Telling the Truth?

Posted July 8, 2010 by

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All children lie. There is a lying continuum and I think that some lying is a normal part of childhood. My 13-year-old son lies a tad more than your average child, but I believe he is still within that typical range. “Did you brush your teeth?” “Yes” “OK, should I check your toothbrush?” “Well, I was going to brush them.” Or, “I was up until 2 am last night!” “Really, when I checked on you at 10 you were asleep.” “Well, I woke up at like 11 for a bit.” So that is what I call normal childhood lying. I am not saying it is OK and he gets busted under interrogation, but it is not extreme.

My 10-year-old stepson is an extreme liar. He gets better at it every day and it is getting harder and harder to bust him each time. He refuses to crack. He came to live with us a year ago because his mother was unable to manage his behaviors. He was stealing things from family members, and lying when confronted. Obviously getting to the bottom of these behaviors has been a priority for us, and material for another blog, another day, but with the help of a therapist we have been working on consequences for him.

The sad thing is, any time something goes missing, he is the first on the suspect list. After years and years of this, 99% of the time, the missing item turns up in his room. The bad thing about this is that we live in a house full of ADHD children and they misplace things frequently. My 19-year-old recently lost his wallet. We tore the house apart. We really did not want to jump to the conclusion that our resident thief struck again. We looked everywhere we could think of. It was a good hour into the search when we accidentally found the TV remote that had mysteriously disappeared. Somebody had hidden it inside an old purse left in the livingroom. We suspected the usual person because although he was currently on punishment in his room, he offered repeatedly to help us search. My thought was that he wanted to find it, be the hero, and be released from his punishment, a regular occurrence at his mom’s house. Meanwhile, the evening progressed and we finally gave in and searched his room for the wallet. He was asleep by now so we used flashlights to look under the bed and in drawers. We woke him up to ask him. To hear my husband tell it, you’d think we had flashlights in his face. He denied taking it. The wallet was eventually found in a closet. The cat batted it under a closet door. So, he was, in fact innocent, and we tried to use this as a learning experience for him, to show him how his past actions have impacted all future disappearances.

Fast forward 2 weeks. The 13-year-old comes home from school and calls me at work to tell me he found his game boy under the 10-year-old’s bed. He said he noticed it was missing and looked in all of the usual hiding spots. When we asked said-suspect to go get the missing item, he looked perplexed, furrowing his brow. When the gameboy did not reappear, he said he did not even know what item was in question. He was getting good at this! He did not crack, even as he found the gameboy under his bed and brought it to us, with his brow furrowed even deeper, claiming dumbfoundedness. “I do not know how this got under my bed! Unless I sleepwalked, which I am darn sure I don’t do!” He is always “darn sure” of everything, until we prove we are darn sure otherwise.

After further questioning, and walking through everyone’s steps on the morning in question, he still maintained his innocence. We discovered that there was not any time at all in the morning before the 13-year-old went to school that he could have sneaked into the 10-year-old’s room undetected to hide it under the bed. Our suspect repeated, “I know he did not put it under my bed and I KNOW I didn’t take it!” Really? There were no other people in the house that day except for my husband and I, and we are darn sure we did not hide it under his bed! He did not throw his step-brother under the bus by saying he did it, yet claims he did not do it himself. “When I hide things, it is under the head of the bed, not the middle!” So, unless it was hidden under there after the 13-year-old came home from school and before we all got home, which we had to at least consider as a slight possibility, there is no other way it could have gotten there. This child has never framed the little one before so we highly doubt this is what happened.

In the end, we did not have enough evidence to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that our suspect was guilty, so we were forced to “drop the charges.” We did tell both boys that we had a good idea who did it, and that said person should thank his lucky stars because we were sure he would not get away with it a second time. But are we really sure? What if this little boy has honed his lying skills and poker face? We have spent the past year providing consistent consequences, yet I am afraid that as we found items each and every time, he learned better what NOT to do, or figured out how we found out and is working harder to hide evidence.

What would you do in the same situation?


I am a mom of two boys, ages 16 and 22, both with ADHD, bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression. I have remarried and my husband has 2 boys, ages 13 and 16. The 13 year old lives with us, and has some behavioral problems and attachment issues. There is always something happening at our house!

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