What Do You Do When Your Child Lies?

2 cannolis on a plate

Tonight when Hubby got home from work he happened to notice that two sweets he’d put in the cupboard yesterday were gone. I’d noticed them mid-day myself. Now the shelf was empty. No one had asked me about eating them, and I hadn’t done it. I had the last slice of carrot cake, not the sweets.

Hubby asked each boy if he’d eaten them, and all denied it. It’s mathematically impossible for all of them to have been telling the truth, so he took a look around to see if there was any evidence. Sure enough, two wrappers turned up in the boys’ bathroom wastebasket.

Hubby asked each boy again, and this time one did admit to eating one sweet. All denied having the second one.

Aaaaand that’s where we are. If there’s one thing we really hate as parents, it’s dishonesty.

We do work fairly hard to limit the amount of sugar the boys eat daily, so I understand that they may feel like it’s a forbidden fruit. However, they do get plenty. The sweets in question are usually saved for the bedtime snack that is served daily. They also get a some small candies every day when schoolwork is finished. Throw in the daily breakfast cereal and occasional cookie, and I think you’ll agree that there’s no deprivation going on here. And yet, a boy felt compelled to take without permission; then he lied about it. In the course of the investigation it became apparent that his twin had also been disobedient. Very sad.

Several consequences were considered: locking up sweets, not having any sweets in the house, going for a certain time without sweets, losing precious screen time….we’re not sure what would actually send the message that lying is really really really not okay. If the boy had admitted to eating the sweet, we would have frowned and told him that we don’t like them sneaking sugar and that they need to eat more fruits and vegetables. Instead, his dishonesty takes it to a new level.

In the meantime, what would you do? This isn’t the first time that we’ve been lied to, and I wager it won’t be the last. (I did give birth to humans after all.) It’s just so sad that they feel like they have to lie to us. Both Hubby and I want them to have a habit of honesty, especially with their own parents.

Hubby finally decided to tell them to come up with their own consequence. They have to choose something serious enough to help them remember to be honest in the future. I guess we’ll see tomorrow what they suggest.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who need their children to be more honest.

The editor-in-chief of Earnest Parenting, Amy is the mother of two sets of twin boys. Yes, they drive her crazy, but they also make her laugh occasionally. Amy enjoys writing, quilting, reading, and working on her burgeoning cyber empire.

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  • Tom February 18, 2010, 10:42 am

    I think I would do exactly what your husband came up with. Come up with your own consequence. I think this teaches two lessons instead of one, especially if you do it every time similar things happen. But also consider, I don’t have this experience yet, Emily is only 19 months old, and the biggest lie she ever had, but that on a daily basis, when she takes something that’s not hers, she says “my”. When I hear “my” from somewhere, I know there’s something that’s not hers. (smile) So, I wonder when is the time coming when I will have to be smart about problems you have.
    .-= Tom´s last blog ..A Day Through The Eyes of a Blind Woman: Part 3 =-.

    • Amy February 19, 2010, 12:39 pm

      Awwwww, what a cute fib! I’d have a hard time keeping a straight face for that one. Hopefully your time for dealing with this problem is a looooong way off, Tom. The boys did choose a consequence: 2 days without screen time of any kind. Because they already had plans to be away from the house, we’re going to do it Sunday and Monday so as to exact as much pain as possible-ahhhhh, I mean help them remember not to repeat this in the future. 😉

  • Jeffrey February 20, 2010, 2:32 am

    I think you shouldn’t hide away the sweets after what happened, so you can show you boys that you trust them enough not to eat those sweets again without permission. We have to educate our children with little responsible and how to gain someone’s trust, because it will useful when they grow up. And what your husband did is great to make them decide for themselves what consequence they have to take.
    .-= Jeffrey´s last blog ..Fight Obesity With Growth Hormone….How? =-.

    • Amy February 23, 2010, 2:07 pm

      Thanks for the moral support Jeffrey! I agree about not hiding them away…doesn’t seem like that teaches them anything worthwhile. They ended up choosing to go 2 days without screens. I don’t think they expected it to be difficult. They managed pretty well, but there was definite cheering when their sentence was over. Now we wait to see if they remember the lesson the next time temptation presents itself.

  • Bob February 20, 2010, 1:40 am

    I also agree with you. Always tell them to speak the truth. And obviously make a plan to see your child doing the same or not.
    Remember it’ll create mental problem to you if they are not properly taught.

    • Amy February 23, 2010, 2:02 pm

      Thanks, Bob. I wish it was easier to expect children to be honest, especially in this day and age. Cheating is such a common thing…they see it in video game play all the time. Don’t know how to meet a challenge? Look up the cheat code online. The boys have never understood my insistence on figuring it out themselves. But cheating is awfully close to lying, you know?

  • Antony February 24, 2010, 3:16 am

    thanks for posting this
    .-= Antony´s last blog ..DomainTools Creates Custom Whois View =-.

  • ski March 8, 2010, 3:21 am

    Make the education of child is difficult, as parents we cannot have control on everything, specially on the way our child are growing.
    We have to talk to them, explain them why lying is bad, but punishment has to be our last solution.
    At this age it’s common to see this. Kids are what they are for the simply reason that they don’t have enough logics on what is good or not.
    So don’t worry about that.
    The most important, in my opinion, in the parents-kids relationship is the dialogue between them.
    .-= ski´s last blog ..Résidence La Souleille des Lannes 3* =-.

    • Amy March 14, 2010, 6:31 pm

      🙂 Excellent points, ski.

  • Ajit March 24, 2010, 4:22 pm

    The reason behind the lying is quite simple. They’re scared of what consequence you’ll give them. They knew you wouldn’t provide them with the cake if they asked, and had an urge to want it. The only way they could do this without getting in trouble would be taking it and lying.

    • Amy March 29, 2010, 12:02 am

      Actually Ajit, it was entirely possible that I would have allowed the cake or offered some other treat. It depends on the day and what else they’ve had, but I frequently agree to sweet snacks if they choose a fruit or vegetable first. I don’t want to be overly restrictive about the sugar issue precisely because of the danger of them overloading when I’m not around. So instead we encourage moderation and compromise with the healthy foods for balance.