Friday, 8 April 2011

Lies, damn lies, and small children

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?
L: No
Me: A, sweetheart,  where does it hurt? What happened?
A: L push
Me: Did L push you?
A: Yes
Me: L, did you push your sister?
L: No.
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.
L: How?
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?
L: No

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?


  1. I have no idea - we are having this problem with both our girls at the moment. Car (3) I can forgive but I thought I'd taught Bel (7) better. She will sit there finger up nose and I will catch her and then she will lie / deny it


  2. I suppose suggesting you put her to cleaning the chimney with a small brush every time she does it would be wrong...yup, thought when you have the answer can you post it so we can all share in the secret :)

  3. Very common in our house too. I say to my five year old, 'you do realise Mummies are magic and know when you're lying don't you?' That makes him squirm a bit. I also tell him lies make me very sad and that also makes him think. But to be honest it depends on the child and I can imagine girls being a bit more crafty about the whole lying thing than boys.

  4. Punish the action and then a worse punishment for the lie. That way she chooses the lesser of the two evils and is at least honest... ;-)

  5. Do we share a four year old?
    Mine just doesn't seem to get it. Often she will just not reply when I ask her as if somehow saying nothing means she did nothing. Irritating beyond belief

  6. I always used to say that I would be far more cross if she was not telling me the truth, and that I would give her a big hug if she was telling the truth.....then the next stage was that the easter bunny/santa/granny at birthday season would also know if she was telling a fib and she wouldn't get any easter eggs/christmas presents/birthday presents.Either that or no CBeebies EVER if she was not telling me the truth - these all worked!! Now she is 11 and it is still easy to tell if she is swinging it, and now I have the 'I have no respect for a fibber' tack. All make me sound a witch - I'm really not, I'm a very easy going dude!

  7. Hi plan b

    I am so impressed that you are raising 3 girls under 4 and a soon to be new born boy in May. I'm knackered with just one! Well it is a bit easier now , he will be one in May funnily enough. I have got all this joy ahead of me. He has already started pushing boundaries. Monkeys aren't they?

  8. Old school here: if I have to intervene in a fight, everyone goes to their room. Either they play nicely, or they don't play together, loose the toy they were fighting over, etc. Think of it this way: you don't know what goes on when you aren't looking. The shove could have followed a swipe or a pinch from an hour before and there is no chance they are going to tell you the truth. So don't give them a chance to lie--don't ask. If there is crying, something is wrong. If they can't settle it, then they can't play. If there is blood or biting, both of which leave evidence, then come down on the offender separately. Stand firm (there will be epic wailing the first time you do this) and they will quickly learn to settle most differences among themselves. Same for tattling by the way. I send Cupcake to her room for telling and Christopher Robin to his for doing whatever she said he did. Usually it works in one go round.


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