Little Liars

Q: My four year old has started lying to me, about everything (going potty, washing her hands, etc.). Is this a phase?


A phase? Yes. It is absolutely a phase. One that will possibly end about the time that she moves out of your house. Until then, enjoy the feel of your lie-detector panties because age four is the only time in her entire life that you will be able to tell WHEN she is lying.

But why, you ask, do they feel the need to lie? Our little ones don’t tell us stories because they are practicing to be felons; they just lie to us to make us happy, evade teeth-brushing and/or avoid punishment (which is why everyone lies—at least it’s why I lie, and to get out of shaving my legs). But your kid is not trying to pull one over on you to be malevolent; she just wants you to stay in your happy place and not have a meltdown all over her and her friend from next door. Because really, haven’t the neighbors seen enough?

Sometimes, like every single member of the Jackson family, four-year-olds often have a hard time telling the difference between what is real and what is not. Their little minds and memories are still developing, and they can be quite forgetful (just keep swimming, swimming, swimming, what do we do, we swim…). Often they just want something to be true so badly that their wanting it makes it true in their minds. She might have helped to pull all of the stuffing out of the sofa cushions, but by the time you have ranted and raved for 30 minutes at her siblings, when you get down to her, she is just as irate about the mess as you are and hardly remembers that she was the one who suggested using the pinking shears.

The best part of the toddler lie is the absolute blatancy of it.  “Darling daughter, did you spill that red Kool-Aid on my white zebra hide?” “Uh, what white zebra hide?” she asks, standing on the zebra hide. My eyebrow slowly rises. “I have never even drank Kool-Aid in my whole life,” she, with a decidedly red-stained upper lip, implores. “I don’t even like the color red. Or really any of those guys in the red/orange family,” she adds, her voice a near shrill as I tilt slightly to the side. “I wasn’t even in this room today!” There is nothing like a heaping tablespoon of silence to coax out a total confession or else an excellent fabrication that you should probably be prepared to video.

So how to deal with it?

The next time your little angel from heaven tells you an untruth, try not to freak out and envision her in a maximum security prison. Deal with the transgression as coolly as possible; you do not want her too scared to come and confess in the future because you freaked out about who fed the dog three sleeves of Ritz Crackers.

As parents we tend to read a lot into every word and action from our kids. If they throw a ball super far, we start imagining them as a professional athlete. If they act mischievously, we immediately think future hardened criminal. Neither scenario is necessarily correct. They are just regular people, like us. Stickier, smellier and with absolutely no fashion sense, but little people all the same. They are gonna have their good moments and their bad and they are going to do some crazy stuff … not like Spring Break crazy, but maybe like Marsha Brady crazy (and if you do not know who Marsha Brady is, then put this magazine down next to your Vera Bradly diaper bag and search it up on Hulu with your iPhone 5 and then post a still of her on Instagram for your 4,000 followers so they can learn something today, too. Honestly, turn 30 already.)

A good idea is to praise honesty of any kind, especially the kind that rats out another sibling, “I’m glad you told me about what the big kids did last night after we went to bed, but be sure not to be a tattletale to anyone else because nobody likes a rat. Nobody except Mommy.” Then slip her an extra brownie on the down low. In cases where she might have told you a lie but chose the truth instead, let her know that you are proud of her for making a good choice then give her another brownie because truth telling is exhausting and she probably worked up an appetite.

Absolutely the best way to teach them to be truthful is by modeling. By being completely honest and forthcoming ourselves with everyone we deal with every day. Ha! No, I’m kidding! That is a terrible idea and can only lead to isolation, overeating and possible imprisonment. But you can teach her by setting a good example of whom it is okay to lie to. The PTA, daddy, and MasterCard, especially if it is TO daddy ABOUT the MasterCard.

“What is this bill from MasterCard for a $3,000 dollar white zebra hide?”

Zebra hide? What zebra hide?

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