093: A subscriber shares: Create a T.E.L.L.ing, memorable moment when a child lies

The last two Show & TELL posts began a conversation about how caregivers can best respond when a child is lying to them. The stories and insights I am receiving are so telling! I may be posting on this topic for a few weeks! So, if you have a story, question, or comment, please go ahead and send it in by using the comment section below.

For those of you who did not get a chance to read the first two posts, you can link to them here:

#1: When my child lies to me, how should I tell her to be honest?

#2: Wanted: Stories, questions, and comments on how to T.E.L.L. when a child tells a lie.

A number of you have shared stories about how you got caught telling a lie as a child and how the adult responded. I’m excited to share these valuable lessons. We can all gain insight from these stories! For example:

My grandmother was baking cookies for her church group. I was probably around 7 years old and they smelled so good! Without thinking, I went up and grabbed four or five of them to take to my room. When my grandmother noticed the missing cookies, she yelled out my name in such a way that I knew she was mad. She came into my room and asked if I took the cookies. I instantly said “no” because I did not want to get in trouble.

I am sure it was written all over my face, and maybe there were even crumbs around me. Grandma replied, “Really, well I wonder who took them then? Do you have any idea?”

“I don’t know, maybe [my little brother’s name].”

She left, and I remember thinking, “What do I do now? She’s going to find out the truth. I am in so much trouble.”

I think I remember this story because what happened next was not what I expected. She came back with my brother (who was then 5 years old), sat on my bed, and said, “You owe your brother an apology for blaming him for something you did.” My brother was like, “whatever,” but Grandma kept having me say more. “I’m sorry is not enough.”

I had to explain to my brother why I blamed him, why I now realize it was the wrong thing to do, what I should have done instead. Then she asked, “And now how about giving me an apology?”

Crying my eyes out, I had to give a similar explanation to her. How I realized it was wrong, what I should have done, why I lied in the first place, etc.

Afterwards, Grandma asked my brother if he accepted my apology. “Yes Grandma, can I go play now?” he said.

My brother left and Grandma said she forgave me, too. I have remembered this story throughout my life when there’s a part of me that wants to react with a lie, when I don’t want to take responsibility for my actions. I think I realized how emotional it is when you have to correct it later. Maybe Grandma even said something like that at the end, that maybe I should have told the truth in the first place.


Isn’t it amazing how a small lie at age 7 turned into a valuable lesson about honesty and not blaming others for your actions? It became a memorable, t.e.l.l.ing moment for this subscriber. Her grandmother took the time to give her a chance to think through what she did and realize there are consequences for not telling the truth and blaming others. The consequences were directly related to the misbehavior. That is, she felt the consequences for telling a lie or blaming someone else.

So today I leave you with one thought to consider. Whenever a child is lying, this is an opportunity to t.e.l.l. them better. Give the child a chance to think and explain what thoughts caused him or her to respond with a lie. While interacting, give the child an opportunity to see why and how there is a better way to respond.

We can use this grandmother’s strategy:

  1. Ask a question that allows the child to correct or continue the lie. “Really, well I wonder who took them then? Do you have any idea?”
  2. Challenge the child’s response. Give them a chance to explain and think differently in this situation. Grandma had her apologize to her brother (in depth) and to her.
  3. Show them love. “I forgive you.”

More stories to come! I am curious to hear your responses – send your questions and comments!

A big thank you to those contributing to our conversation! Together we can figure out better ways to t.e.l.l. the children in our lives, more specifically, how we t.e.l.l. when a child lies.

Focus: Teach, Encourage, Listen, LoveTags: #, #, #, #, #, #, #, #, #, #