Lie to Me

I think as parents, we occasionally come up with creative ways to teach our kids life lessons. I was reminded of one of those creative ways not long ago. It happened when my 19-year-old daughter was harassing me about “honesty.”

She caught me busily uploading CD’s onto my computer so I could put them on my iPod. Now before you get all in a tizzy, let me explain! I LOVE audiobooks. It’s even safe to say I’m sort of addicted to them. I do buy them on occasion for my iPod, but I also have borrowed books on CD from our local library. When I do this, I often load them into my iTunes so that I can play them on my iPod instead of lugging a CD player around wherever I go. I don’t sell them. I don’t share them. I don’t keep them after I’ve listened to them. I just delete them when I’m done and move onto the next book.

My daughter thinks I’m being dishonest whenever I do this. I argue that I’m just choosing a different mode for listening to my audiobook. We go ‘round and ‘round, never coming to an agreement. But our discussion reminded me of the time we impressed the lesson of honesty on Ashleigh.

Yup, that’s right. Pull up a chair and get comfy. It’s time for an embarrassing story about my kid. And don’t even feel badly for her that I’m doing this! She’s created a blog of her own where she’s merrily posting pictures of all my failed food experiments (of which, unfortunately for my poor family, there are many) for her readers, so all’s fair in love and creative writing. Besides, according to one of my relatives, this story makes me sound a lot worse than Ashleigh, but hey! We’ve got to grab those inspired teachable moments when they hit, right?

Once upon a time, when Ashleigh was around five years old, she developed a bad habit of lying. It got to the point of ridiculousness. And the thing is, she would lie about the most obvious things, so she’d get caught every time.

“Ashleigh, why did you color all over your Barbie toys and playroom furniture?”
“I didn’t.”
“Uh…then why is there crayon and marker ink all over your face, hands and toys?”
“I don’t know.”

We tried heart-to-heart discussions. We rationalized. We rewarded her every time she told the truth first. We tried various forms of punishment. Nothing was working! Then one day I had a brainstorm. I decided to apply a writing principle to the problem. I decided to “Show, don’t tell.”

After breakfast the following morning, I pulled Ashleigh aside and said, “Honey, I have a secret to tell you.”
“What is it, mama?”
“I’m going to take you to see 101 Dalmatians today.”
“Really? Yeah!!” This was accompanied by lots of happy bouncing and hand clapping.
I leaned in and added conspiratorially, “But please don’t tell Joshua yet! Since he’s only three, he won’t understand that we aren’t going until later and he’ll bother us all day about it, okay?”
“Okay, mama.”

Our day passed as usual—with Ashleigh behaving particularly well. Then, at around 7:00 p.m., I said, “Time to get ready for bed, guys!”
Joshua barreled up the steps to get his pajamas, but Ashleigh hung back, a confused expression on her pretty, little face.
“What’s wrong, honey?”
“I thought we were going to the movies?” she whispered.
 “Oooooh, right. Yeah, um…I lied.”
Her little rosebud mouth fell open. “What?”
“I lied.”
I have to admit I felt a little bad when I saw the shocked dismay on her face, but I held firm. “You’re probably feeling pretty mad at me right now, aren’t you?”
She nodded.
“Sort of sick, sad and angry inside all at once?”
Another nod.
I squatted down and met her at eye level. “Well honey, that’s exactly how Daddy and I feel every time you lie to us.”
She started to cry.
I cradled her in my arms until she’d stopped. Then I repeated all the things her father and I had told her a million times before about the importance of being an honest and honorable person. But this time, the message really sank in.

(See, I told you I’d sound mean. Yup, I’m a mean mom!) But she never told us another lie--that I know of, anyway. Ha, ha! And we all lived happily ever after.

The End.


Annette Piper said...

Oh you're a brave woman but what a clever way to teach her! Do you have any ideas for a bossy-boots 13y.o. boy who wants EVERYTHING his own way and his younger sisters to do everything he says??? I've tried reasoning, but its just not working, he thinks we're just 'picking' on him. *sigh*

TeresaR said...

I don't care what you say, I think you're a brilliant mom! Gosh, you should write an advice column on parenting, or maybe a book. Truly. Brilliant!

Petula said...

That is fabulous... in a sorta sick, creative mommy way that I love. :-) ... I am so not sure about the audiobook and CD thing.

Name: Holly Bowne said...

Awwww, shucks, you guys are makin' me blush! Thanks for the encouagement! :o)

Jackie K said...

That's a great story! One of my daughters who is also 5, is going through a lying phase too - maybe it's the age group? We're trying a few things; I'll keep this in mind if these don't work - don't know that I'm game yet though!