Kids lie. There I said it. They do. If you are a parent, you know this.
First question: Did you lie as a kid? As a teen? What were your lies? Did you lie alot? A little? What scenario generated a lie?
The other day I was at the orthodontist with Son and Daughter. While we were waiting to be seen, the doctor was with another family across the room. I heard the teen patient ask a question and though I didn't hear her question, the orthodontist's answer immediately grabbed my attention.
He said, "Are you lying?" Then his head flipped to the mother without missing a beat and he said to her, "Is she lying to you?"
At that moment, the mother without a moment of hesitation answered in a heightened voice,.
"Of course she is lying - she lies to me all of the time!"
I will admit to you that my head began swimming with so many thoughts when I heard that. But in all honesty, I couldn't get passed one thing.
That poor mom.
That poor mother had to sit there and look at a professional in a public setting and admit that her daughter was a liar. I don't think there is anything more humiliating for me, than to admit my own child's dishonesty...repeatedly.
I felt badly for her. I thought about my own parenting situations - when my children have lied and I was stuck standing in their corner...it's a terrible feeling.
In the past when I've had issues with my children lying repeatedly I looked for some parenting advice. I did research about lying and children. It always disturbed me that the link made with children lying was that the parents must be too strict and that children lie out of fear of their parents. Really? The kid lies and it is MY fault?
Example: Child goes to school. Child wears inappropriate socks with school uniform. Child's teacher sees this and writes a referral for inappropriate school uniform attire. Child doesn't tell me about the referral. I find out. Child lies about it. That is MY fault?
Let's get this straight. My TEENAGER knows the rules about the uniform policy. Teenager made a CHOICE to break the rule. Teenager gets caught. Teenager is given a referral. Teenager doesn't want to get in trouble so teenager lies. Oh, YES, I see that lie clearly is my fault for being a parent that would intervene.
So as I stood in the orthodontist's office mulling that other mother's situation over - I would soon get to experience my own little humiliation.
Son is there to have his teeth checked for his Invisalign appliance. Son has already informed me that he is "behind". Apparently he has not been wearing the trays as mandated - and he has told me that he is two days behind with this particular set of trays. So I already know that he has been dishonest about how often he is wearing them.
Now, yes, I am definitely irritated by this as we are paying $6,000 for him to have his teeth corrected with the Invisalign rather than regular braces. But the orthodontist leaves the other patient and comes over to us. He lays my son down and begins to check his teeth. He is not wearing the appliance. Orthodontist says, "Please put your trays in." Then my son says the unbelievable...
"I don't have them with me. I didn't bring them."
The orthodontist immediately sits him up and says, "Why aren't you wearing them? They should be in 22 hours a day."
My son gives some mumbling answer that I couldn't understand. The orthodontist then says, "Son, your parents are paying alot of money for you to not be wearing these."
Then he looks at me and says, "Shall we put braces on instead? If he isn't going to wear them properly, we should just go with braces."
I immediately called my husband who was at home working on a conference call to tell him to bring Son's Invisalign immediately to the office and explained what was happening. Needless to say, my husband is not a happy camper.
I then ask Son where the Invisalign is so that his father can get it. He can't remember. I am silent. How can he not know where something is that he is supposed to be wearing for 22 hours out of every day? I feel more dishonesty is about to unfold.
I give my husband ideas about where to search. My husband adjusts his conference call to his cell phone and starts to look for the Invisalign and then bring them to the office. After he arrives, I give them to Son and the top tray doesn't fit properly.
The orthodontist is skeptical. He asks Son if he is sure that these are the correct trays. Son tells him that he is a week behind in wearing them.
Me: <thinking> Week? Did he say week? Just out in the waiting room he told me 2 days. But now it is a week...Now I am pretty sure that Son purposefully didn't bring his Invisalign because he knows he isn't wearing them and is significantly behind.
Now the orthodontist looks at me and says, "These are tray 6 - do you have tray 5?" Now he knows that I don't. But clearly he is thinking that he needs to go backwards - why? Because Son is not telling the truth.
My mind is suddenly filled with the countless times that my husband and I have said to Son, "Are you wearing your Invisalign?" and Son says,
"I just ate."
"I'm just about to eat."
"I just brushed my teeth."
"I just got a drink."
"I was getting a drink."
Lies. Lies. Lies. Now here I am having to stand in public while 1 orthodontist and 4 technicians watch my son lie.
So - is this where it is my fault?
It is my fault that he is lying because he is clearly trying to avoid punishment. Am I supposed to be okay with this?
Sure, Son, take this $6,000 and flush it down the toilet. It's okay. I don't mind. We didn't need that 6 grand anyhow?
So the orthodontist then says, "This is strike one. If you come in again and haven't been wearing these - I am putting braces on you. You MUST wear them 22 hours a day."
Son continues to make his promises and shake his head affirmatively. I am just sick to my stomach. I want to believe him but....I just don't.
I remember lying to my parents. One weekend when I was in high school, we all made plans to go see the Rocky Horror Picture in Washington D.C. I was pretty sure I wouldn't be allowed. So - I lied. I said I was spending the night at a friends - which I did - I just left out the whole D.C. - Rocky Horror thing. (Sorry Mom and Dad - I know you are finding this out now - I love you.)
Bottom line was I didn't tell the truth because I wanted to do something that I thought I wouldn't be allowed to do. I didn't lie because my parents were too strict or because my parents didn't listen to my "feelings" or because I was afraid of them. I lied because I wanted to do what I wanted to do. If my parents had found out, I would have been punished - why? Because I lied - true - but also because what I had done was not safe and in being disobedient, I had put myself in a possibly dangerous situation. But MY lie was in NO way my parents fault.
So when my son is lying about wearing his Invisalign - what is up with that? Is he lying because I am such a tyrant whipping him to straighten his teeth? Oh, did I mention that we are paying EXTRA for the Invisalign over braces and that the reason we CHOSE to do Invisalign was so he would be more comfortable when he wrestled. He asked us to please do Invisalign. Wrestling would require double mouth pieces that would make breathing difficult. We were doing him a FAVOR! The next thing I know I am sitting in the orthodontist office with a Son who is not wearing them and lying about it.
So it would just be nice that when parents are dealing with their children lying - because ALL CHILDREN LIE out of selfish motivations - it would be nice if the blame didn't fall on the parent. Perhaps we could come up with something more useful to combat the problem. Everything doesn't always have to be the parent's fault.
It is a frustrating thing to parent at all ages...toddlers, preschoolers, elementary schoolers, tweens and teens. As much as we all try to emulate integrity and honesty to our children - it seems to be somewhat of an achilles heel raising our children. No parent wants to be the one sitting there with the lying kid. Yet we all will be that person at some point.
It reminds me of an old Bill Cosby skit...Bill tells the story:
"People don't understand children, especially people who have no children. A person with no children say "Well I just love children". You say "Why?" And they say "Cause the child is so truthful. Children are truthful, that's what I love about them, they say the truth." That's a lie. I've got five of 'em. The only time they tell the truth is if they're having pain. You get a fifteen month old child knows when to lie. You see the child crawls into the cupboard to get it's favorite cookie. Fifteen month old child knows where the cupboard is, knows where it's favorite cookie is and it will open it up and sit down and take the cookie and you go over are you try to get the cookie from the child, which is also a contest, "Here, let me have it." So I take the cookie. And I take the box. And I put the cookie in the box. And I say "You can't have this. You understand? I don't want you to have the cookie." And I put it, way up here. Now this fifteen month old child after I've left the room begins to build a very sophisticated ladder. Climbs up the ladder. And begins to try to get the cookie. Now you can hear the paper rustling and that's in your favor because a fifteen month old child doesn't know that sounds travels. They're also not bright enough to hire a lookout. So you hear the paper rattling. And you run, and there's a child standing there with a cookie. So you say "What are you doing?" No this honest child looks at you and says "I was getting the cookie for you".
Bill Cosby, 1983