My daughter recommended that I write about "Mommy eyes." This is a term I've used a lot as a parent. When I called my children out on something they'd done that they thought they got away with, I would tell them that "Of course, I saw you do that. I have Mommy eyes." Or when they went looking for something that was usually right in front of them I would tell them to "go back and look again with Mommy eyes." When they used "Mommy eyes" they found it every time.
It's amazing to me how quickly we develop those Mommy (or Daddy) eyes. We seem to be able to see through walls, our sense of hearing becomes very acute and we can just sense when something is not right. We grow eyes in the back of our heads. Now, I also used some tricks along the way. I admit to sneaking quietly up to a bedroom door to listen to what was going on in there or pretending to be asleep on the couch while listening intently to the conversations around me. It's also good to have spies. My spies often had no idea they were working for me. I just had casual conversations with them and left room for information to leak. I also have to admit that I sometimes made accusations based on little evidence to try to flush them out. And, sometimes I just guessed. Usually, I was right. When I was wrong, I was always quick to apologize. My kids were sharp, and I needed every tool I could find.
Sooner or later, every child is going to try to get away with something. We did it, why shouldn't they? Even the most well-behaved child will eventually tell a lie. If we think they won't, we will not be prepared for it when it happens. I always chuckle when that revelation comes to a parent for the first time. Ironically, those of us who were the best liars are often fooled by the lies of our children. Just yesterday, my son was recollecting when he aggressively went to bat for his daughter with a teacher, insisting that she would never lie to him. But, she did, and he had to deal with his embarrassment, deal with her behavior in school and the lie she told to him. Then he had to deal with the teacher for the rest of the school year. Everyone lies sometime. This bears repeating.
Like many parents, I struggled with how to deal with those lies. No one wants to come right out and accuse your child of being a liar. And, when does it stop being imaginative play and start to become lies? It's not imaginative play when someone is trying to avoid being caught at something, or trying to have their own way. If it's being said to manipulate a situation or person, it's probably a lie. Even when you admire their creativity, try to remember that it's not cute. It's setting a dangerous precedent that will harm them in the long run.
Once a pattern of lying is established, it's very hard to break. That's why it's so important to learn to see through the lies early on and deal with them sternly. If you were a good liar, you're probably feeling confident that you will be able to tell when your child is lying to you. Take it from one good liar to another, it's not as easy as you would expect. My kids got away with way too much. They must have inherited my lying genes and then took it a step or two further. The more a child gets away with lying, the more they hone that skill. By the time they are teenagers, you may have no idea what's really going on. If your young child is starting to lie to manipulate you or their surroundings, better nip it in the bud before it gets out of hand. Come up with some strategies for encouraging truth-telling and consequences for lying.
As always, please send your suggestions to me for topics you would like covered in this blog.