Truth Be Told

Hannah told me that she tried a red pepper at school today and didn’t like it. This was after I placed a few slices of red pepper on her plate to try as a new vegetable of the day.

“You tried red pepper at school today?” I asked her with uncertainty.
“Mmm Hmmm”.
“Hannah, please don’t tell me something that isn’t true. I just want you to try a small bite, I think you’ll like it.”
“No mommy, for really real. I did try it and didn’t like it.”
“So if I ask your teacher, she’ll tell me that you did in fact try a red pepper today?”
“The teacher wasn’t there.”
“Oh, so the teachers left you alone in the classroom and there just happened to be a red pepper sitting on the table and you decided to try a piece?”
Looooooonnng Pause.
“Well, I think the teacher may have had her back turned. Or maybe it wasn’t actually in school that i tried it and didn’t like it. But I know I did for real try it one time somewhere and didn’t like it.”
Her name is Hannah. And she’s a fibber (already).
This was one of the things when Hannah was born that I said to Tim we would NOT have… a liar. I have always said that I will make sure she’s comfortable enough with me to always tell the truth. Why should she lie when I would never make her feel bad about telling the truth?
Apparently, it’s not so simple.
I was a PRO liar when I was younger. I didn’t lie about big things (like who I was going out with or where we were going) but I lied A LOT about little things. And when I look back on WHY I lied, it’s very clear to me. I wanted my parents to be proud of me, so I made things up to make stories more exciting, to make ME more exciting. I also didn’t want them to be disappointed in me, so I’d lie to cover up something I did that I knew they wouldn’t approve of. I was smart and quick and got away with it (mostly).
But the lying really only hurt me in the end. Since I was so good at making up these stories, there was no reason for me to really try to ACTUALLY make my parents proud. And often I did things to disappoint them knowing I’d get myself out of it by lying. It was a vicious cycle and honestly, it was a very hard one to break. I got caught lying to a friend in highschool and she made me feel like such an ass that I realized it wasn’t worth it. I was mortified. And I quit cold turkey. I remember stopping myself in lies and telling the truth. I remember being so proud of myself. It felt so much more”right”. I felt free. And when I saw people still liked me (maybe even more), I gained confidence. And I’ve never looked back.
And now I have this 4 year old who is telling these little innocent lies. I don’t give a shit if she tried a red pepper or not. But once she realizes that she can get away with little stories about eating peppers and brushing her teeth and someone pushing her at school, she may raise the bar. Lying can turn into far worse. Lying can become cheating, plagiarizing, stealing. (I know I’m bringing it to a silly level at this point but bare with me). She’s testing me at this age, I’m well aware of it, and I’m calling her bluff. I think I’d be doing her a disservice by blowing it off as a cute stage. I recall the lies that I told when I was young, causing a huge divide between me and my parents. I hid behind these little lies so that they weren’t able to see the real me. The one that I feared they wouldn’t like.
People lie when they aren’t confident that the truth will work to their benefit. It is so important to me that my kids know the truth will always put them on the winning side, that even if they see disappointment on my face from the truth, that it will make them stronger. That I will always support them in the truth and I will NOT in the lies.
There are the little “stories” that I let her tell and smile along with her. The stories about make believe people and the adventures she has with them. These strengthen her imagination, let her be creative, let her live in a fantasy world that all kids should be able to find. These stories aren’t meant to fool anyone or pull one over on anyone.
I’m figuring out ways today when my kids are still tiny and only testing the waters to encourage truth telling. Just yesterday when Hannah told me she had brushed her teeth and I knew she had not I said, “Oh, that’s too bad you already brushed, I had a new tooth brushing game I was going to teach you.” She quickly changed her story and saw that my reaction would have been different than she had expected. Can I hope that this will continue to work? Can I set a healthy groundwork for truth telling today?
Maybe I’m overthinking, and my girl is much more confident than I ever was. Maybe I won’t have to worry. I hope that’s the case. Hopefully next time, she’ll try the pepper.
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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Truth Be Told

  1. Aidan Donnelley Rowley

    Great post. Toddler is just getting savvy enough to spin some lies, but we're not quite there yet. This is so tricky, isn't it? How do we encourage telling the truth while simultaneously letting our kids be kids? And how do we tell our kids to tell the truth when we ourselves don't know what truth is?

  2. TKW

    Yep, they learn pretty early, don't they? As in, lie to your face that they don't have poop in their pants and Hello? You have a nose!

  3. Shell

    My 4 year old has started this, too. And it's hard to know what to let slide and what to call him on.

  4. Kristen

    Like Aidan's Toddler, my Big Boy is starting to dip a toe in the lying waters, but it's still hard for me to tell at this point (he's 27 months) where the line is between imagination and deception. I totally agree with you, though, that teaching our kids that they will be loved and accepted even when they mess up is a critical lesson so that the white lies of today don't mount into much deeper ones in the future.

  5. Nicki

    Great post! I recall an elementary principal who told several parents "children do not lie." That was the point at which I realized he was in the wrong career field.It is hard to explain that to tell even a small fib is not acceptable to someone so young but it is best to nip it in the bud if possible.

  6. Kelly @ The Miller Mix

    We had to create a "truth chair" for my 8 year old. When I knew he was lying, I'd tell him to go sit in the truth chair. We told him that the chair would know whether he was telling the truth. He'd sit on it, squirm for a minute, and then blurt out the truth. His punishment was lessened because he told the truth (and usually the lie was over something small). Eventually, he just stopped lying because he learned the "truth" wasn't going to hurt him.Of course, it now occurs to me that we lied to get him to stop lying … but it's the thought that counts, right?

  7. Carrie @ Who Knew?

    This is something I think about a lot actually. I lied all the time as a kid and I don't really know why. I thought of writing a post about it too. Maya of course is no where near lying (she can barely speak) but I still worry. I mostly stopped lying once I got caught or made a lot of trouble for myself but still to this day sometimes I will tell a lie for absolutely no good reason. I guess it's just habit but I hate it. I don't want to be dishonest. And, more importantly, I remember hearing my Dad lie all the time as a kid (hmm. . . maybe that's why I lied) and he kind of encouraged us to lie (in the sense that he just didn't want to know what was going on and have to deal with it). And I never want Maya to hear me lie or to pick up the habit of lying from me.Thanks for the post.

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