On telling lies

Parenting is hard.

This kid of mine. He's smart and funny. He makes the keenest observations and has the most compassionate heart.

And he can lie like no other.

Short of taping his mouth shut, I just don't know what to do. He'll lie straight to our faces. He'll be honest with someone else but will continue to lie to us. He'll feign innocence and cry about no one ever believing him as he continues to lie.

He'll also lie about the stupidest things -- things that no one would believe and about which there's no reason to lie. Things that are obvious lies.

Me: Are you eating cereal?
Javi: No! [mouth full of Golden Grahams and milk dripping down his chin]

The mountain man: Did you finish your chores?
Javi: What chores? I didn't know I had any chores! [standing right in front of his daily chore list]

I just don't get it. Surely it's a phase, but my blood pressure skyrockets and my body goes rigid with anger each and every time.

I refuse to raise a liar ... I just don't know how not to.

Any tips? (And, for the record, taking away things he enjoys and/or spankings don't work. The kid found a way to play and cavort on his way to bring in the trash bin. He has no remorse whatsoever unless and until he wants something ... and then he wails and thrashes around about how his life isn't fair and nothing is his fault.)

***This post is part of Wordful Wednesday.***


  • Cathy Reaves

    See - first rule - never ask a question when you clearly know the answer. You're just asking for it. And, to curb his enthusiasm for making your blood pressure rise - consequences. Don't you just hate that? I hate having to be "mean mom".

  • debi9kids

    Oh boy! I am RIGHT there with you.
    One of my kids lies ALL the time and I have yet to figure out how to stop her.

    I hope you find something that works for you (and if you do, please pass on your secrets)

  • Karin @Mommy's Paradise

    Oh dear, I so get you, it would freak me out every time I catch him red handed. But I have no advice, my tot is only 3yo. And his 'lies' are too cute. The first advice from Cathy however makes sense, for your own peace of mind at least. ;-)

  • Liz Mays

    I remember both of mine went through a lying phase, but it was short-lived. I hope his will be too. I'm sorry!

  • Kelly Miller

    Oh Cathy. We have the consequences coming out the ears and he just adapts. We told him no video games, so he's decided he doesn't like video games anyway. We told him he couldn't go to his friend's house and he says he prefers being at home. We added more chores and he says now he has something to keep him from getting bored. We told him no more new things and he says he doesn't like shopping anyway.

    It goes on and on -- and he's consistent. He'll be blase about all of it for as long as you withhold it from him. I can't find a single thing he's passionate about.

    We did tell him he couldn't go see a Panthers game with some family friends and that seemed to get through to him. He said he'd just watch on tv because you can see better anyway. So we said he couldn't watch it on tv either and he says, oh well, at least it's just the Panthers and not the Vols.

    Of course he's banned from football watching for a month (all games, including the Vols), but he just shrugged and said he'd catch up when they do re-runs next year.

    You see what I'm working with here?

  • Kelly Miller

    @BV - Do you have a secret for not killing them? ;)

  • Kelly Miller

    @Debi - I feel like if I could find something he's passionate about, I could leverage it to get some honesty from him.

    What I just don't get is why he'll continue to when we offer him amnesty if he'll just be honest. This most recent time, we told him we weren't upset about the thing he did but we would be very upset if he lied to us about it. We told him if he'll just tell us the truth, we'll work it out and he won't be in trouble. He continued to lie!

    I guess it's developmental ... but there has to be a psychological or psychosocial underpinning. Right?

  • Beth B

    oh yes, I know this well. My teenage daughter has been telling lies since she was a little squirt. The thing is, she is really bad at it. We can usually tell pretty quickly when she's got a whopper going. I *think* it is basically a defense mechanism because she wants to tell us what she *thinks* we want to hear. She doesn't want us to disapprove of her, so out pops the lie. Even the stupidest lies over something that seems ridiculous to lie about.

    So part of the solution is don't ask a question that might be seen as "passing judgement". Instead of "Did you do all your chores?", try "What chores are left to do?"

    And when I do catch me daughter in a lie, I tell her two things - We may get a little mad if we don't like something you've done, but we will be a LOT more angry if you lie about it. AND, if you keep telling lies, there is going to come a day when you will be telling the truth and you will want us to believe you and we won't because you have told so many whoppers.

    There are fewer lies now but I don't expect it to stop anytime soon, unfortunately.

  • TKW


    Not a scrap of advice that I can offer, but I do understand. My stepson is like Javi--he's not particularly passionate about anything, so it's a struggle to find ways to motivate him (in any respect). I know how frustrating it is. ((you))

  • Kelly Miller

    @Beth - I really like how you reframe the question. I can see how that would shift the "emotion" from judgement to information seeking.

    @TKW - Thanks lady. I asked Mountain Man if we could yank him from his football team, but apparently that's a no-no. You know, being a team sport and learning to honor commitments and all...

  • C (Kid Things)

    My oldest starts to lie about really silly things. Thankfully he's still young enough that if I keep after him just a little, he'll cave and tell me the truth. It's also been nothing seriously outlandish, yet.

  • Stacia

    My oldest is going to be this way. I'm so not ready.

  • Kelly Miller

    @Stacia - May the force be with you!

  • Yo-yo Mama

    My son who is 9 acts just like yours. Blatant lies and punishments are just reason for him to come up with more excuses.

    One of the books I've been reading suggests not punishing, but rewarding: go all week without "forgetting" your homework and you can play the Wii for X number of hours; do all your chores and you can have a friend over; etc., etc.

    You have to find out what he likes and then he has to EARN the rewards. He hasn't turned around 100% but it works better than punishment. That just punishes everyone in the house.

  • Kelly Miller

    @Yo-yo Mama - Great idea. I do try to focus on rewarding positive behavior, but not to that structured extent. I'm going to try harder!

  • Kelly Miller

    Here's a great post that didn't make it through comments for some reason: http://www.handinhandparenting.org/news/192/64/Lies-Carry-The-Truth

    Lots of great ideas and reasoning there!

  • Photina

    I am having this problem with my oldest. She lies about little things, like her teacher says no lemonade at lunch, to big things, like hurting her sisters. It is so frustrating for me and I have no advice but I do know what you are going through. No matter how much I take away it does not phase her. I am out of ideas.

  • Anonymous

    Kelly, you describe my oldest to the letter. I have also struggled with a lack of currency with him, and lying and everything else. I have been working on phrasing and not asking questions that I already know the answer to; trying not to ask for the lie. It's hard and I hope he grows out of it. I don't have anything new to suggest, but thought I would throw my support in with the rest. =)

  • HynesMom

    We've always had a similar guideline as Beth B. From an early early age, I told Dylan that if he did something wrong, but told me, that was one thing. He might get punished, but he he lied about it, he would definitely get punished and the punishment would be much worse. Thankfully, he's never been much of a liar, and when he did - even though it was minor - he got dramatically punished. That is, dramatically to him. Taking away TV is like stabbing him. When it happened, he was DISTRAUGHT.

    So recently, when he and a friend decided to skip class (!) they did it, but when they were caught they didn't lie about it. So the reaction was upset but not crazy upset. There was punishment, but it was just the loss of morning TV (he gets to watch if he is dressed on time), but not weekend TV. (There is no evening TV.)

    Good luck. I don't know if we just got lucky, if the rules have worked, or if trouble is just around the corner!

  • Kelly Miller

    @Jessica - I'm hoping mine grows out of it, too. It's the lying to lying to my face that kills me. I don't feel as bad about it when he lies to others, but it feels horrible to know he'd deceive me.

    @HynesMom - We tried to give Javi the out that if he told us the truth, he wouldn't get in trouble. He chose to keep lying. I wish I could figure out what would enlighten him.

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