What Should you do When Children Lie?

ometimes I am the parent I want to be and sometimes my parenting elicits the response I am hoping for. Before you think I am perfect (or indeed think I think I am perfect which is perhaps even worse!) I’d like to point out here I have many, many failings as a mother and frequently reach the end of my tether with my children, like every other parent and yes I shout too much for my liking too. I am no superhuman.

As I said though, sometimes things go really right, sometimes they click into place and I think “maybe I’m not doing such a bad job of this parenting thing after all?” – sometimes like yesterday.

My daughter is five. She is spirited, clever, funny and amazing. She also lies. A lot.

Yesterday I bought my son a new chest of drawers for his bedroom (that’s a whole other story actually, he won’t hang his clothes up in his wardrobe, I was fed up of him not putting them away. So rather than continuing the stalemate we discussed it – the upshot was he found hanging up too difficult – we therefore decided that the way forward was getting him an extra large chest of drawers so he could fold his clothes and put them away in that way, not hung like I’d prefer, but not on the floor where I hate them!), anyway we need help to manoeuvre the large chest up our teeny winding cottage staircase so they’re currently in our entrance hall.

Yesterday afternoon some large black dots appeared on the top of the drawers. Looking very much like they had been made with my large (thankfully not really) permanent black marker pen. I asked the boys who had made the marks, they all said their sister, which confirmed my suspiciouns due to the rather 5yr old looking marks and her obsession with drawing on everything at the moment.

My daughter however was not forthcoming with the truth, I asked if it was her? “It wasn’t me” she cried and stormed off sulking, despite her brothers being in the same room protesting that it was. I left it, hoping she would come back and confess to me, she didn’t. I went to her 20 minutes later, I found her curled up on the sofa in the playroom looking very sorry for herself – a sure sign of guilt! I asked her again and reminded her that lying to me was always worse than telling the truth, whatever it was that she had done.  She refused to talk to me. I asked her to take some time to consider whether she would like to talk to me and tell me what she had done and perhaps if she would like to tell me that she had made the marks that she would like to help me to clean them off.

10 minutes went past, she came quietly into the room sobbing saying “Mummy you hurt my feelings”. I asked if she would like a hug. She didn’t reply, instead she climbed onto my lap, pulled me tight and buried her head in my arm, sobbing. I hugged her back and told her I loved her. Once she had calmed down I asked her if she would like to tell me anything and reminded her she could help me to clean off the marks.

“I’m sorry” she whispered. “Would you like to help me clean the marks off?” – slowly she nodded, tears rolling down her cheeks. I said “I know you know that you shouldn’t have drawn on the drawers don’t you?” She nodded. I then said “Thank you for telling me the truth, I am very proud of you”. We hugged for a LOOOONG time before cleaning the drawers together.

Will she lie again? I’m sure she will (though I would like to think she was not fearful of telling me if she has done something she is ashamed of), will she draw on something again? Possibly, though I’d like to hope not! Did we build an understanding then? Did I hopefully instill a little of the importance of telling the truth and help her to trust and respect me? I hope so. I could have chosen to shout, spank, send her to time out or the naughty step, all of these would have been far quicker than the hour or two or took to resolve the situation and indeed I know most of these would have seemed a far more ‘normal’ way of handling the situation. Instead I believe what I did do has made a far greater, more positive mark and one that will help to set the scene for us in the future.

At the end of the day that’s what it’s all about, not marks on a chest of drawers. It’s only a piece of furniture. I can cover marks on furniture with a cloth. I cannot do anything to change the marks I leave on her personality forever more though.


Published by SarahOckwell-Smith

Sarah Ockwell-Smith, Parenting author and mother to four.

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