Written by Doctor G

Lie to Mom? Suffer the consequences!

My 9 year old has been forgetting to brush his teeth & when I ask in the morning if he brushed, he will lie & say yes. Every morning I put tooth paste on the kids tooth brushes, after the boys left for school, I was upstairs with my little one. The 9yo’s tooth brush had not been touched, tooth paste a dead giveaway. So… After I got my daughter to preschool, I went to school & had the 4th grader paged. I handed him his tooth brush & made him brush. When he came back from the bathroom he said “you embarrassed me!” I said good, maybe you will stop lying about brushing your teeth. The end. OK, what does Dr. G say…

Laura, in Pittsburgh, PA

I say… Go Mama!  Teeth brushing is important, but truth-telling is even more important.

What did you do that your 4th grader needs?

  1. You notice him.  You pay attention to what he does and to what he doesn’t do.  He can be certain that you are focused on him.
  2. You care for him.  Not just care about him, you are invested in his health and well-being.
  3. You teach him.  You don’t walk him upstairs and stand over him while he brushes his teeth, though you probably do this for your preschool daughter.  You are teaching him to take care of himself and build the healthy habits that will serve him well.
  4. You hold him accountable!  When he lies and you figure it out, you will not ignore it, you will help him stay motivated to do what is right.

Maybe he thinks by showing up at school you wanted to embarrass him.  Not true, though you may not have minded that as a side effect.  What you really said by showing up at school is “You can count on me.”  And that is the most important lesson our kids can learn each day.


Ever caught you’re a kid in a clear lie?  What worked for you?

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8 thoughts on “Lie to Mom? Suffer the consequences!”

  1. When my almost 6 year old lies to me about something that either happened at school or about something his teacher said (ie. My teacher told me to bring $40 to school to by school supplies, or my teacher made me clean the toilets, and YES those are real whoppers he has told in the past few weeks) I offer to call his teacher to check, or talk to her after school to verify that he has his information correct. He then gets annoyed with me when I pick up the phone to call and he tells the truth before I get a number dialed. And if he didn’t stop me from calling, I would still talk to the teacher to make sure his information is valid. He had me believing for 2 days that his teacher made him clean the urinals (he said it was a class job, and did so convincingly) and then I spoke to his teacher about it and she said she would NEVER make her kindergarteners clean toilets. I always make sure that my son knows that I can find proof, even if I have to fake a phone call when I know he is lying just to get him to tell the truth. But I’m going to use that one until he catches on, maybe another 3 times or so, until he relaizes I don’t actually have his teacher’s phone number. After that, I will just ask the teacher when I take my son to school. I would like to know actions to take for a 5-6 year old that are like the one the mom described above. My son isn’t embarassed at school and he does tell a lot of fibs. How do I break him of it?

    1. Joy, you are right! You need to keep him in that elementary school belief that you know what he is up to or can find out at any time. Which is, actually, true! I have marked your question, and will get to it soon. Please check back!

  2. My children learn the hard way when they lie to me, I always make an example out of it and never let it go. I;ve always taught them that they get in less trouble if they just tell me the truth than if they lie to me and I find out…and I ALWAYS find out.

    1. It is not simple to make clear lines about when a child is getting in trouble for breaking a rule and what the “extra” consequence is for a lie. But I think it is very important to make that clear – and to help them understand that the lie is usually the bigger problem. Good work!

  3. Clear lies are easy and the consequences fit the crime most of the time, unless I have PMS at the time and then I will ground them for a year for something really trivial – not my best motherhood moments for sure!

    Where it gets sticky is with what I think of as the “murky lie”, which often comes for the somewhat older child in order to cover their tail knowing that they were or did something that was flat out wrong or skating close enough that it rises just about to the point of wrong.

    All bets are off when you get to the rebellious teenage years when they say that are at “Suszie’s” but really at the mall or whatever – drives me down the crazy highway each time.. making me wonder some days what I was thinking having 6 kids.

    But in the end I just have to take each incident on a case by case basis, show compassion and mercy sometimes, come down like Judge Judy at other times.. it’s a mom’s job.


    1. You said it Maddie. It is a parent’s job to keep the big picture in mind, understand each child and each situation as well as we can and then do what we think makes sense at the time. Keep it up.

  4. Joy,
    I support your response, but a word of caution on your tactics. When you pretend to call the teacher, but don’t have her number, are you lying to your child? Would your son see it that way? Make sure you are not seen in his eyes as modeling the behavior you are trying to discourage. The teacher will likely be happy to share her number with you (or dial the school), especially if she knows you are not going to call her unless you have to. If you get the number ahead of time, you don’t worry about your child “catching on.” Modeling truth is the best way to inspire truth telling in the long run.

    1. Ed, I have to agree. Kids at the age of 6 may not figure out that you can’t call the teacher at home. A tween or teen will jump on that very small lie and use it as an excuse to not listen to anything else you have to say.

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