Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire – Dealing with Toddler Lies

Dealing with Toddler Lies |

By Sheba Siddiqui @shebasid & online at:

Life Writer Masalamommas

My three-year-old son is an occasional liar. Simple things like bringing toys to bed and telling me there’s nothing under his blanket or taking away his little brother’s toy and insisting he was playing with it first. It concerns me. Mind you, in every other aspect, he is zero trouble. Listens to us, eats his dinner – broccoli and all, sleeps through the night in his own bed, cleans up his play room when we tell him to and is fully potty trained.

It’s the fibbing that is becoming a problem. I caught him in the act the other day when I asked him to go wash his hands. I heard the faucet turn on for about two seconds and when I asked him whether he had used soap, he naturally replied, “Yes, mommy”. I knew for a fact he hadn’t so I called him out on it and once he knew he had gotten caught, he admitted to his lie and went back to use soap.

Now I understand that testing your limits is all part of growing up. I’ve also heard from many friends that lying is something that all kids do at some point and they haven’t yet been able to learn the difference between fantasy and reality.

My husband and I have repeatedly said that lying is bad, but then it occurred to me, have we ever even explained to him what lying is? Or what telling the truth is? We simply assumed he knew what both meant. Not fair.

So on last week’s date night, in the midst of downtown Toronto’s hustle and bustle, while enjoying something deemed a “Chocolate Explosion” that we were giddy over finding in our restaurant’s dessert menu, our server came over to check on us in the midst of our ‘liar, liar’ discussion. I abruptly turned to her and asked, “What do you say to a three year old when explaining why you shouldn’t lie?” Granted, we have a rule that we don’t talk about the kids on date night, but that rule usually gets broken and last week was no exception. Her answer: “Being honest feels good and makes you a good person”. Such a simple and easy answer from a woman who had no kids (I know because I asked).

Her reply made a light bulb go off inside my head. We came up with a brilliant tactic to teach him why he shouldn’t lie and why lying is bad. We decided to implement our plan last weekend.

We sat my toddler down and had a nice talk. Sure, he has the story books in his room about kids who get in trouble for not listening or for lying but I think the initial talk needs to come from Mommy and Daddy. We gently explained what lying is and what telling the truth is. Then we used what we consider a pretty darn good example.

Photo: Courtesy Sheba Siddiqui

My son is obsessed with superheroes. He loves that they fight for good against the bad guys. That they save people and make the world a better place. So we incorporated his healthy obsession into our explanation. We told him that superheroes never lie. That part of being a superhero is to always tell the truth, no matter what. And that’s what makes a superhero one of the good guys. Honesty is always the best policy. We wanted to focus our talk on the positive – always telling the truth, instead of the negative – lying. Well, something clicked when we used that reference. He got it! In only a few days, I’ve noticed how he now bravely tells us the truth when a Hot Wheels car is tucked underneath his pillow at night or if he’s been rolling around in the mud puddle outside and now admits that he DOES know how the mud got all over his pants, shirt AND hair. I heard him telling his little brother this morning that superheroes always tell the truth.

It’s refreshing and satisfying all in one! When you come across a parenting problem, discuss it together as a team (and with your restaurant server) and approach it in the best way you think it will get through to your toddler – it feels like you’ve really accomplished something as a family! Now all I need to worry about is what I’m going to say when he approaches me and asks me why Peter Parker and Bruce Wayne lie about their real identity…

Have you ever had to deal with toddler lies? How did you handle it?

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  1. Seema

    Great article! I have used a similiar approach with my 4 munchkins. We explained the importance and the difference to the and told them that they receive blessings when they are truthful even if Mom and dad may seem upset at first we would always respect them for telling us the truth. I also told them the superhero thing when they were 4 and under 🙂
    If we try to be respectful of our kids in that we explain things at their level…they do seem to be more willing to follow the rules simply because they understand the purpose behind it.
    I am hoping it continues to be effective thinking as my kids grow….

  2. Yashy

    Awesome post. I hope to file this for when I need inspiration in a few months (hopefully never but who are we kidding!). I see you’re still harassing the servers and bartenders any chance you get 😉

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