Addressing a lying child is not enjoyable. While it is happening, it can be painful. We want children to learn about honesty, commitment, and other valuable traits that are weakened when they tell a lie. We address these moments the best we know how. We want to instruct the child to make a better choice, but sometimes we just are unsure what to do.
I wonder if you can relate to this mom’s story:
My son is about 3 ½ years old. We are in a playgroup with other children, and the other day after playgroup, I noticed he was playing with a new toy car. I asked him where he got the new car, he named a boy in the playgroup gave it to him.
‘Are you sure?’ I asked.
‘Yes, he gave it to me for my birthday.’
‘But, honey it’s not your birthday.’ Which is when he started crying, and continued saying, ‘He gave it to me, I promise. He gave it to me for my birthday.’
I didn’t want to say to him, ‘You’re lying,’ so I told him I would call the boy’s mom and see if that is true. I added, ‘We don’t want your friend upset because you took his car.’ Which maybe I shouldn’t have said because those words caused my son to cry even louder, repeating the phrases, ‘I didn’t take his car, he gave it to me, promise, he gave it to me for my birthday,’ on and on.
Those of you who are around toddlers, I’m sure you can imagine this scenario: the child crying and believing one truth and you seeing a different truth. How do you interact in these situations? This subscriber did not feel she handled this the best way; she wants to know if any of you have a better way to handle this situation?
When we got home, my son genuinely believed this boy had given him the car, but when I called the boy’s mom that was not true. So I told my son, ‘You must have misunderstood the boy. He did not give you the car, and we will be giving the car back tomorrow.’ I added, ‘When we do return it, you are going to have to say you’re sorry for taking the car.’ I told him to give me the car for now.
We had a rough hour, hour and a half. I tried to get him to play with something else or watch a movie. I even asked if he wanted to read a book with me. He just sat on the sofa obviously upset. He was mad at me. Every once in a while, he said something about that was his car. His friend gave it to him for his birthday. It wasn’t until his sister came home from school that he could focus on something else.
But here’s the kicker, the next day we went over to the friend’s house to return the car. I asked him to say he was sorry for taking the car, which he said calmly, ‘Sorry, I took your car.’ There was no mention of a birthday gift. He wasn’t upset any more. It was like yesterday never happened!
I left thinking maybe I should have handled this differently. Should I bring up what happened yesterday? Did I miss an opportunity to t.e.l.l. him better about lying – taking his friend’s car without asking? I’m actually writing to hear what other toddler parents – or teachers of toddlers – can suggest!
Any suggestions? Send us a note in the section below. What would you have done differently? What can this mom do next time a similar situation happens?