Lying is one of those things that everybody pretends not to do. It isn’t exactly an attractive thing to admit about yourself. “Hey, I’m Toni – I make a mean batch of organic kale chips, love walking barefoot on muddy grass, and I lie all the time. I don’t even like kale anymore. I am into Swiss chard now.”
Most people lie about lying so no one thinks they’re a big fat liar.
I don’t think lying comes from an evil place, but rather a selfish one. You lie because you don’t want to deal with the consequences of your actions. In the short term it feels easier because you get to do what you want, but in the long term it’s more stressful because you have to carry the burden of your lies. Plus, you also have to remember them. There is nothing more annoying then someone who lies to you, and then forgets their lie. It’s like, “Uhhh at least have the decency to keep track of your lies.”
Sometimes people lie because they don’t like who they are. They exaggerate and decorate details so they will be more likable. I had a friend who lied about her entire identity. She would tell people she was from London, had a fake accent, and an entire story about the British family she never had. I once called and she answered, “Hello love, I just spent 6 quid on a sandwich” and I was like “Naw man, I know the other version of you,” and she was all, “Right. I forgot.”
The problem with lying is that if you get caught, people tend to stop trusting you. When that bond is broken, it is really hard to repair. Even if you can have empathy for why someone may have lied – to spare your feelings or anger – that doesn’t mean the feeling of betrayal goes away.
Part of my job as a parent is to teach The Munch these lessons of morality so she doesn’t grow up to be an asshole that no one likes. Now that she is 4, The Munch is becoming aware of the concept of lying. It is part of human development to recognize that you can concoct an alternate reality, and experiment with lying. So far, she really sucks – it is pretty obvious she didn’t actually brush her teeth when her breath smells like chips.
I have come to expect there will be times The Munch tests lying as a strategy of manipulation. The question then becomes, how do I react when it happens? One method would be to shame her, and make her feel super guilty. Considering my Catholic grandmother helped raise me, I learned how to do that from the best! Yet if I make her feel intensely embarrassed about lying, then she will feel even stronger that she has to hold onto her lie. She would never admit to lying because she would be too afraid to come clean, which would only lead to more lies!
I figured the best way to get Munch not lie, was to make her feel comfortable telling me if she did. So if I suspected her, I would just ask, “are you being sneaky?” and she would then reply “yes!” Rather than getting mad, I just reminded her that people won’t trust her if she lies. After a few weeks, she stopped altogether. I was like “Check me out. I did it. I won parenting.”
THEN… we went to Target to get some art supplies.
Toni: Munch let’s get these crayons. There are so many colors! AND the box has a sharpener you can use on your old crayons!
I used to love new boxes of crayons so I was irrationally excited, and kept asking her, “Aren’t you happy with these new crayons!? There are so many to choose from.”
The next day The Munch wanted to color, but I couldn’t find her new crayons.
Toni: Where are your new crayons?
Munch: I don’t know? Let’s just use my old ones.
Toni: Okay, but where are your new ones? They were right here. We were just using them yesterday?
Munch: No idea. Let’s just use the old ones.
Toni: Yeah alright – it’s just so weird. They didn’t get up and walk away.
Munch: They sure didn’t.
I figured I must have done something with them in a manic fit of cleaning, and let it go. The next day when she wanted to color, I still couldn’t find them. I tore up the house searching everywhere. Then finally I looked under the couch, and found them.
Toni: There they are!
Munch: I know! I hid them there!
Toni: You hid them? You were being sneaky this whole time??!
Toni: Why?! Why didn’t you tell me when I was looking for them?
Munch: Because you liked them so much, and all you wanted to do was talk about the new crayons.
So I guess I am no longer just raising a sneaky liar, but also a total sociopath.