Friday, July 29, 2011

Lying Children

I have a hard time with lying children. Don’t get me wrong, my children lie, but right now, thankfully, they lie badly. There is no question when a whopper is coming out of their mouths. Nicole will pause awkwardly between every other word, thinking up her tale as she goes along and then force a smile when the lie is complete. Natalie will lie with more finesse, but the guilt factor is too high for her. She breaks down almost immediately after the lie has flawlessly slipped her lips and tearfully confess to even the most harmless of tales – I really didn’t brush my teeth, I did take a bite out of the cookie. Then she’ll beg for forgiveness in a way that always makes me worry that I’ve been too hard on her.

My girls have a long way to go in perfecting the art of deception or even telling the little white lie. They will, however, question at every turn when mommy tells one. The other day they were with me when a man approached asking if we needed any home repairs. I waved him off, saying “we just remodeled recently…” granted, we remodeled 9 years ago when we moved in, but that’s still recently in some ‘hoods. The girls immediately pounced on me for telling a lie. I tried to explain to them the difference between why my lying was okay and theirs isn’t and found myself in an ethical debate with two people who’s ages combined barely make them old enough to vote. Explaining the difference between lying to spare someone’s feelings, to be diplomatic or to fend off unwanted advances and telling a lie for personal gain is a difficult distinction to make. It’s one of the eternal parenting challenges like trying to help your kids recognize the difference between good strangers and dangerous ones. They are still all strangers in the end, right?

So the other day, some kids were over playing and every time I asked them a question they had a direct, straight forward answer. Both kids said the same thing and there was no sign that a tale was being told. In fact, when they left, I remember thinking, “Wow, what nice polite kids they are…” That night a received an angry call from their mother, furious that I allowed them to do the things they told me they were allowed to do at home. My children are so poor at lying that I’ve grown sloppy at detecting dishonestly in other people’s children. That’s not good. Having kids who don’t lie well has left me at a disadvantage. I have to sharpen my internal mommy lie detector and remember that other kids might be better versed than mine at the art of deception. It is one of those parent survival tools that you have to have when dealing not only with your own children, but more importantly, with other people’s kids. If not, they’ll eat you alive.

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