Scene 1. Our house.
L pushes A. A screams. I enter, in time to catch the gist, but slightly too late to see the offence.
Me (cuddling A) : L, what happened? Why is she crying?
L: I don't know.
Me: Did you hurt her?
Me: A, sweetheart, where does it hurt? What happened?
A: L push
Me: Did L push you?
Me: L, did you push your sister?
Me: Are you lying to me?
L (compounding the crime, in my opinion). No.
Repeat ad boredom
Scene 2. Our car. Me looking in rear view mirror, in time to see L hit S. S cries.
Me: L, that was very naughty. Don't hit your sister.
L: I didn't.
Me: Yes you did. I saw you.
Me: In the mirror. That's not the point. Don't hit your sister. That's a naughty thing to do.
L: I didn't.
Me: Yes you did. And now you're lying to me.
L: No I'm not.
Scene 3. Our living room. A sitting on yellow cushion. I leave the room. A starts crying. I return. L is now sitting on yellow cushion.
Me: L, did you take her cushion?
Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
So what do we do? Because, let's be honest, if I were nearly four, I'd do exactly the same thing. She's done something wrong. She knows it's wrong. Why would she own up? Because for all that I say "I won't be cross with you if you tell the truth" we both know that if she's hurt her sisters I'm going to be cross, otherwise I'm effectively saying it's ok to do so, as long as she tells me about it, which seems pretty shaky moral ground.
So how do I teach her not to lie? I can tell her that lying is not a good thing to do, but every now and then it probably works and she gets away with whatever it is she's done, so she's going to keep doing it, isn't she?