Pants on Fire: Why I Lie to My Child


My mommy’s a liar. I am NOT amused.

(Note: This is written mostly in jest. So, read, laugh and enjoy!)

There’s a bit of parenting advice you won’t find in any child-rearing book (at least none that I’m aware of). It’s unethical, immoral and goes directly against God’s commandments (the 9th to be exact). Yet, every parent does it on a regular basis.

So, what is this taboo topic? Lying. Lying like a priceless Persian rug on a rich man’s floor, like a coon dog basking in the sunshine on my porch, like a penny in the parking lot at the grocery story (ok, enough with The Band Perry references).

Awhile back, I wrote my 5 Tips for Taming a Strong-Willed Toddler. Guess what? “Become a Liar-Liar Pants on Fire” is #6. Why? Well, let me illustrate a few scenarios that occurred recently, and I’ll attempt to justify my fibbing ways.

Bogus Boogeyman

Picture yourself in my shoes (and I wear a size 12, so they might be a tad big for you): I’m at Sam’s with my husband and two toddlers (it’s hard to admit that my youngest isn’t really a baby anymore). We had a long list of things to buy, and we’d already gone to a late lunch at Applebee’s, so we were pushing it on the meltdown-o-meter. At the back of the store, Anna shrieked those five little words that no parent wants to hear in the middle of a busy public place, “I have to go potty!” (I suppose it’s better than “I just had an accident.”) So, I lift her out of the cart, and we make our way all the way to the front of the store to tend to business. While washing her hands, she has a mini-fit about the hand-dryer, so I braced myself for the possibility of another outburst in the near future. Sure enough, as soon as we left the confines of the ladies’ room, she went buck wild. Running, laughing, whining, and shrieking through the aisles of the mega mart.

When I zigged, she zagged. I managed to catch her wrist several times, and she pulled one of those Toddler jujitsu-twister moves where she spun around, fell to the ground like a limp noodle, and slipped from my grasp. I was desperate, sweaty and panicked. I could not physically control my child. “Anna, no ice cream for you if you don’t behave!,” I snarled at her. (We’d promised a frozen treat from Mickey D’s if she didn’t cause problems while shopping.)  “I don’t WANT ice cream!,” she yelled back, startling a poor elderly woman nearby.

Frantic to find my husband, I pulled a last-ditch desperation move. I lied. “Anna, there’s a bad man chasing us! You have to come with mommy now to find daddy. He’ll protect us!” Her eyes darted around the produce section, scanning for the creeper. “Where?,” she asked incredulously. (This kid is way too smart.) A kindly-looking older man approached us with his cart, no doubt trying to access the banana table we were blocking. I felt a pang of guilt as I weaved him in to my web of deceit. “That man, there!” Her eyes widened as she saw the “monster” approaching. He gave me a quizzical look, gave her a friendly grin, and she bolted! It worked! I grabbed her by the hand and we raced through the store in search of my husband.

Should I have instilled unnecessary fear in my daughter just because I couldn’t control her behavior? Maybe not, but I don’t regret my decision. Why? Because running away from your parents in a crowded store is very dangerous.  Although the “boogeyman” wasn’t real this time, he could be next time.

Bedtime Tall Tale

“Goodnight sweetie, I’ll see you in the morning,” I whispered to my daughter as I kissed her forehead. As I made my way out her door, she jumped up on her bed and asked, “Mommy, what are you and daddy going to do now?” I froze. You see, she’s been taking an interest in what mommy and daddy do when she’s not around, and she’s started to suspect that she’s missing out on a fun-filled nightlife. “Well…we’re going to sleep.” Whew! I managed to get away with a half-lie, since we would be going to sleep eventually.

“But, are you going straight to bed?” Are you kidding me?! Who is this child, too smart for her own good? She knew I was up to something. So, do I tell her the truth? No, it would be too tempting for her to sneak downstairs later. And besides, it’s something that no child should see their parents doing. (Eating ice cream straight from the carton with our feet on the coffee table. What did you think, you perv?)

I couldn’t look her in the eyes. I put my arm around her shoulders and assured her, “Yes, mommy and daddy are going straight to bed.” She gave me a disappointed look, and told me to “sleep real good.”

Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness (Except to Your Child When Necessary)

So, there you have it. My dirty little secret for manipulating my toddler’s behavior. And don’t act like you don’t engage in these deceitful practices. If you claim innocence, I’d like to hear the conversations around your house about a certain man in a red suit, egg-laying rabbit and flying dental diva. Eventually, she’ll find me out, but until then, I’ll fib my way out of desperate dilemmas if absolutely necessary. I just hope that she doesn’t use these same tall-tale tactics during her teen years. She is, after all, her mother’s daughter, and is able to spin a story like none other. And if she does, I’ll just smile and say, “It takes one to know one honey, and you can’t pull one over on me.” :-)

My Friends are Fibbers, Too

As it turns out, I’m not the only one who’s told a tale or two (thank goodness). Here are some other good ones from a few of my friends:

@SuzanneTobias: “The candy’s all gone.” (Truth = Mommy hid it. OK, Mommy’s hoarding it. Whatever.) “Toys R Us is closed today.” Also, “They don’t make Furby batteries anymore.”

‏@KSJILF (I told her) calamari was mini onion rings…until she saw the one that looked like a mini octopus then said “ok, what are these really?”

Karen:  “Where does (the tooth fairy) get all those dollars?’ and I said, she collects them. I didn’t know what to say, I almost told him she worked at a bank.

Sally:  I explained (to my daughter) that the tooth fairy did not bring to little girls who forced teeth out before their time. She did not believe me so we called the tooth fairy and let her explained to her the conditions of money for teeth. Thank god when I called my friend out of the blue to be the tooth fairy she went with it even though she had a house full of guests.

Erin:  I grabbed a tissue and plucked (a spider) off the ceiling as my 6YO watched. Instinctively I told her I was just going to move it, because I could tell she was concerned. I left for a minute, and when I came back she asked what I did with it. “I put him outside.” Technically, I did — isn’t the sewer outside?

Kamber:  To avoid (a bathtime meltdown) sometimes I unplug the drain and tell him that sound the drain makes is the tub monster and he needs to get out! Yes I feel bad sometimes but when it avoids a major meltdown sometimes it’s worth it ;)

Lisa:  I am known for telling my daughters that if they don’t buckle their seatbelts the Police will come take me to jail (maybe more of an exaggeration than I lie) and if they refuse I will intentionally drive in the direction of the Police Department to “turn myself in”. I used to convince my oldest that the car wouldn’t start without everyone wearing their seatbelt but in a hurry one day she wasn’t buckled in yet and I started the car…busted.

Ashlei: We call the Easter Bunny in June!


8 thoughts on “Pants on Fire: Why I Lie to My Child

  1. Lies I have told: Sesame Street isn’t on right now. Truth? We have about 200 episodes DVR’d and could watch them nonstop for days on end. Also, pancakes are a sometimes food. Truth? I would eat pancakes everyday if I had the time to make them. Best lie? Thunder is monsters dancing in the sky. I hope I don’t have to explain what part of that is a lie….

  2. I have read MANY parenting/advice/tips books when I was pregnant and as my children have been growing up, but not one ever told me that “manipulating the facts” would be one of the most employed parenting tools I would rely on. “Lying” is such a strong word – and carries quite the negative feeling – while “manipulating the facts” seems more scientific, more goal oriented. And, whether my goal of the moment was to raise smart kids, or teach them a life lesson, or just get out of Sam’s with my sanity and groceries still intact, “manipulating the facts” was my go-to weapon. It will stay in my toolbox for a very long time, I’m sure, even as my kids go off to college. I truly believe that we do our kids a disservice when we try to be their best friend all the time, or be the cool parent that all the kids like. Shoot, my kids have a lot of friends all on their own, and I am way cooler than my kids probably realize, anyways! :) There is nothing wrong with NOT telling your kids EVERYTHING you did or didn’t do when you were their age, using a “scare” tactic to move things along, or call Santa in March to make sure that the Naughty and Nice list is filling up already! It’s what we call Strategic Parenting!
    Thanks for sharing, Cat!

    • Thank you so much for sharing your insight with me. Most of the time, I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, so it feels good to get reassurance from others that we’re all in the same boat. :-)

  3. Ok this is really bad of me, but to get my youngest off his bottle when he was around 18 months old… I put pepper in it one day and said oh my look your bottle has bugs in it we must throw it away, He took and and threw it away all by himself and never ask for it again.

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