097: A teenager’s perspective on what lying is — and isn’t

Well, friends, the stories and thoughts being shared about children lying and addressing the child’s lie have sparked many questions and comments! Most recently, we are considering the difference in a caregiver’s perspective and the child’s perspective under these circumstances. One of our subscribers shared how her students reacted to the notion of lying (click here to read) and then Caroline’s post about her 4-year-old daughter unknowingly telling a lie (click here to read). A number of you have commented on how you had not considered the more naïve point of view of the younger person.

Being curious about the younger person’s perspective, I had a talk with my nephew (age 14) about speaking a lie. One of his stories supports the fuzzy, more naïve perspective of telling a lie:

Like mom will ask if I brushed my teeth, and even if I haven’t I’ll say yes because I know I will make it true at some point, but in that moment I have an agenda, something else I want to do.

When I asked him if he thought that was lying:

Well kinda, but not really because it will be true shortly. I might as well just say yes now. No harm done. I guess I tell little lies which I probably shouldn’t do, but it doesn’t really impact much because it will be true eventually.

Clearly, little lies to him are not really lies. From his point of view, children lie:

  • To avoid upsetting someone; we want to say and do things that please our parents or others;
  • To avoid getting punished;
  • To escape having to do something;
  • Or because they don’t know better, they don’t see it the same way as the grown-up.

He believed the situation with brushing his teeth met the last category. Specifically, he didn’t see it being a real lie. How important is it to consider the child’s perspective when we respond to a lie? Should we respond differently if a child is trying to avoid being punished or if the lie is being told because in that moment he or she doesn’t know better?

My nephew said when he was younger; he didn’t know he was lying. It was more like I wasn’t telling the truth, which doesn’t seem as bad as lying.

I asked when he thought he knew the difference he speculated, I think it was around kindergarten. Mom or dad labeled what I said as a lie, and it was bad.

He added, Before I realized it was a lie, I remember it giving me a rush when I didn’t tell the whole truth and I got away with it. Once I knew I was lying, I didn’t feel that rush any more.

truth or lieA lie or not a lie? How should we respond in order to teach, encourage, listen, and love a child to be better, to make better choices? If we want to t.e.l.l. them to know better, make a better choice, shouldn’t we realize first what thoughts contributed to their poor choice?

I am grateful to all the subscribers for sharing stories, along with the compliments, challenging remarks, and questions. Thank you, and please keep the messages coming. Also, if you find these conversations helpful, ask your friends to join in on the conversation!

Next week we have more stories to share about actions that lead to blatant lies. For example, how some caregivers respond when a child ‘stole’ from another child, a store, or some other person or place.

Have a good, t.e.l.l.ing weekend!


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