Musings: Lying

Today’s topic is: “How do you keep your children from telling lies?”

Pinocchio, bulkcolor.com

Luckily, only one of my daughters has reached the age where they knowingly lie. I’m sure my two-year-old Maggie will catch on soon, but for now, I only have to worry about what comes out of the mouth of my three-year-old Cambria. And believe it or not, this actually makes my job easier.

There was a parenting test a few weeks ago. The girls were playing quietly together upstairs. A little too quietly, so I went up to see what they were doing. When I walked into the room, I saw torn and crumpled pieces of paper scattered across the floor. I picked up one of the tattered scraps and it was a page from my spiral-bound cookbooks.

“What happened to my cookbook?!” I asked, sounding surprised but trying not to sound too angry.

“Maggie did it” said Cambria, a little too quickly. I took a deep breath.

“Maggie, who tore up the book?” I asked, in a gentle, non-accusatory tone.

“Cam-bia” said Maggie. I took another breath and turned to Cambria.

“Cambria, did you tear up Mama’s cookbook?” I asked, with a look of stern disappointment on my face.

A half-smile that clearly said ‘I guess she didn’t fall for it’ rolled across her face and she said “Yes.”

From there I launched into (what I hope was) a clear explanation of how it is not good to treat other people’s stuff like that, but more importantly, it was worse to lie to Mama about it. I remember myself saying “What you did was bad, but lying about it will get you in more trouble. You should never, ever lie to Mama.”

A few days later, I discovered a green crayon covered in slobber and pocked with teeth marks. Since we don’t own a dog and both girls had been coloring that morning, I asked them who had chewed on the crayon. Cambria quickly said it was Maggie, so I told Maggie to open her mouth, and lo and behold, there was green wax stuck in her tiny molars. I firmly explained to Maggie that crayons were not food and they shouldn’t be put in her mouth. Then I said that since she had chewed on them, I was going to put the crayons away and she wouldn’t be allowed to color tomorrow. She nonchalantly wandered off saying “Ok Mama, I try next time” (which is usually her response to our coaching about peeing on the potty instead of in her diaper.)

I’m pretty sure that this type of thing will happen again. I worry that in the coming months, there will be another test except both daughters will deny wrongdoing (or worse, they’ll blame the other and only one of them will be guilty and I won’t be able to find out which one.) Oh dear.

If you have advice about how to solve that issue, I’d love your suggestions. Please share them in the comments.

~ Phoebe DeCook

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