Liar, Liar

Lying is bad. Right? Like, it’s actually bad. Isn’t it? At least that’s what they tell you from a very early age. Be nice, use your manners, don’t eat your boogers, and always tell the truth. I’m not here to dispute that lying is right, but how do we communicate the nuances of situations when we shouldn’t lie versus moments when a harmless little fib couldn’t hurt anyone. Where do we draw that line? More importantly, how do you communicate this to a 4-year-old?

Recently, I came face-to-face with this very conundrum. Charlotte’s daycare was hosting a casual Mother’s Day brunch. It was exciting because this was the first event the daycare had been able to host since the pandemic changed how we lived. Activity tables were set up, and light refreshments and snacks were offered. Children and mothers could play and mingle safely outside. This was an opportunity to see how our children socialized with their peers and teachers, but also a great chance for moms of the same cohort to interact with one another. I was nervous, but curious.

Once there, Charlotte showed interest in joining the arts table where another classmate (let’s call her Blake) and her mom were decorating a framed picture with a bevy of glittery stickers. I had recognized her mom from drop-off and pick-ups over the years but had never had a chance to chit-chat. As we were learning personal details about each other (what the pandemic has been like for each of our households and the similar struggles), Blake turned to Charlotte and sweetly asked her, “Do you like my picture?”

To which Charlotte like the serial killer I always suspected her of being coldly responded, “No.”

I was stunned. Mor-tif-ied. I was mortified! In that moment, the reels of her early life flashed before my eyes, begging the question: Where did I go wrong? Was it the time we told her she couldn’t have a treat after dinner but then succumbed to her request just for the sake of our sanity? Or perhaps it was the time we entertained her belief that the number 8 could exist on a roman numeral clock some day? 

I wasn’t the only person stunned. Poor Blake and her mother also looked bewildered (obviously each for different reasons). But this only added to my humiliation. What must they think?

Motherhood is a tricky occupation. It’s like none other. With most jobs, you garner value, confidence and status based on your direct performance at your job. And typically, performance is measurable based on specific, achievable, time-bound targets (don’t worry, I googled this). So, perhaps you hit the sales target that month or you successfully closed out year-end without any glitches- these are tangible goals to meet. But societally, as a mother, your “performance evaluation” is often erroneously based on two things (in my opinion). The first is how clean your house is. The spectrum on where you might fit begins at June Cleaver and ends with Roseanne Barr (I’ve always been a fan of Roseanne, the show that is). And second is how well-behaved your children are. The first has nothing to do with motherhood and the latter is sometimes out of your control.

Again: What must they think?

So, I did the only thing I knew to do in a moment like this, while a devastated preschooler and her innocent mother looked on.

I threatened bribed warned her. (I also thought about humbling her, “You’re no Picasso either! Tell her you LOVE it now, Charlotte!” But I thought better of it.) I turned her to face me and whispered into her ear in a calm and collected (but also, I-mean-business) tone of voice, “Don’t. be. rude. Tell Blakey you like her picture or else no special treat later.”

Obviously, this wasn’t the best tactic but I panicked. All that did was make an awkward situation even more awkward because Charlotte then began glaring furiously at Blake to the point where Blake’s mother had to cut the tension and sooth her daughter when it was clear Charlotte wasn’t going to be coming around anytime soon.

“That’s okay, Blake,” her mom gently reaffirmed. “Charlotte doesn’t have to like your picture. Not everyone will like everything you do, but I love it and I will always like everything you do.”

I had to give it to her, she was mother of the year in my eyes. It was the best response, I feel, a mother in that situation could have had. If only I had the same great technique to handle Charlotte’s perspective, I thought. 

As the event progressed and everyone went on about their days, the pangs of guilt started to settle in. Was I really expecting her to lie? Is that what I was threatening bribing warning telling her to do? Yes, there’s a way to be kind, of course, always lead with kindness. But, really, what was the teachable moment here? If someone asks you if you like their picture or not, you always say yes?

It occurred to me that I had been expecting her to unlearn everything we had been teaching her up to that very moment. Always tell the truth. Then it dawned on me that this wasn’t really about Charlotte telling the truth when she should have been fibbing or leading with kindness. It was about how I was embarrassed by the perceived judgment as a mother, by another mother. Plus, what exactly should one have done in that situation- honestly.

Do you believe in always telling the truth and nothing but the truth? Is fibbing always wrong?


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60 thoughts on “Liar, Liar

  1. As someone who can be perceived as brutally honest, I get Charlotte’s comment. When asked, she replied truthfully. I’ve done that, too. I know it was awkward, but Blake’s mother saved the day. And made an excellent point that not everything is for everyone. That’s no big deal as long as your something is good for someone you respect.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree! It was such an interesting experience for me to be faced with this situation because I couldn’t find the words in the moment and didn’t have a well-quipped response like Blake’s mom… But I agree, you can never go wrong with honesty in kind… as long as you deliver it with kind intentions, you can’t really lose!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m going to pull from my knowledge as both a mother and an artist. Yes it’s important to tell the truth. If a student comes to me with a photograph and asks me if I like it and all I do is tell them how great it is… they will never grow. They will stay exactly as they are and there will be no improvement. If I ONLY offer criticism then they will lose their confidence and they won’t grow with that either. Instead, I give them a compliment sandwich. I tell them one thing I like about it (the colors, the tone, the mood, the thought process) and then I say something like “if you try doing… XYZ I think it would be perfect.” So talk to Charlotte and tell her to pick ONE thing she likes “I love that you used the color blue here!” And tell her instead of saying “I hate it!” Or “NO!” Say something like… “I think if you added a smile to it, that would make it even better!”
    She’s not lying, but she’s also being kind. This is a technique that I teach my son.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I don’t like the concept of not telling the truth. However, I will lie to spare someone’s feelings, especially if it’s something they are proud of, or like. There are times when someone needs to hear the hard truth, and times when it’s just cruel

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What an interesting scenario you paint. And as a mom of young children, I totally get your pain. Especially after we haven’t had the chance to meet the parents of our children’s school friends for so long.

    But I wonder about the question Blake asked. Do we start that young looking for approval from others? I agree with LaShelle about picking out one thing you like but I know my 2-year-old couldn’t do that and I’m not sure if my 6-year-old would even remember that. How about answering a question with a question like “what do you think?” Something to move the conversation to curiosity instead of judgment.

    But you are right – it was all about the pressure you felt. Maybe it would have worked to ask Blake to tell you more about her drawing?

    Whatever the answer – I liked your post. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wynne, so glad you enjoyed! Thank you so much for reading and contributing to the conversation! It really was an interesting scenario that I grappled with long after it had happened so I am so glad to get everyone’s take on this. You’re right, how you deal with this situation really varies with age, doesn’t it?

      Charlotte is 4 so I feel like she would be able to grasp the concept of being kind to others just as she would want to be treated the same. But I also like your approach about turning the question back on them or asking them to tell you more about the drawing.

      Recently a friend of mine came over and her daughter (same age as Charlotte) would draw something and beam up when she showed her mama. Her mama/my friend, would then say, “Wow! Tell me more about that!” And I think that’s such a great approach to find out what that drawing meant for her, if she was proud of it, what the intention behind the drawing was, where she got the idea for it, etc. It really is just to get a better understanding of what goes on in their brain/world more than the actual picture/activity itself. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, I like the “Tell me more about that.” approach! You are so right – it’s more about understanding their world as well as building that relationship. And I think the same goes for building relationships with other parents, right?

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Gosh, that’s a toughie. I like LA’s comment above. I think when it’s over something minor like this, being kind trumps being truthful. But that, of course, begs the question of knowing WHEN it’s one or the other or WHERE to draw the line. It could also depend on the other person. Will this person jump off a bridge if I don’t lie in this situation? There doesn’t seem to be a black and white on this one, in general. I mean, she could have said out loud, “I like it,” but kept inside her head, “because it sucks compared to mine!” 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • ‘Will this person jump off a bridge if I don’t lie’… still, “I don’t like it!” hahaa I could just imagine Charlotte here again sticking to her knee-jerk reaction of ‘NO!”

      The thing is, the difference between us adults and children (well, there are many but mainly) is that we have experience and empathy… we’ve all had ppl be unnecessarily unkind to us and know how it feels and most of us, I would imagine, would never do that to someone just to be hurtful and we know the weight of our words so we have become so good at that little tight-rope dance…

      I must say, I do like your idea of saying she likes it to her face but then being honest with herself in her head lol hehehe sounds like something I would do haha

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I appreciate how candid this post is. I’ve been in situations like this when my daughters were younger.  And, unlike Blake’s mother, most mothers do not have responses ready (it was a really good response).

    Children are brutally honest. They can teach us a thing or two. This is something I’ve only discovered since my children have grown up, so…

    Your son was responding to a question. It’s as simple as that. We are embarrassed because we have been socialized to. By the way, we need to get over that. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes! I was so blown away by her response and how quickly it came… I mean I might have come up with a similar response too but only after days of perseverating about it! LOL

      You’re right, the unbound brutal honesty that children embody remind us all to be more true to ourselves (also, it’s hilarious- their brutal honesty lol)!

      You’re right about the socialization of that perfect motherhood image! We do need to all just get over the embarrassment/judgment factor and just understand that we’re all doing the best we can with what we each have. We all walk different paths!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Lots of good stuff here. Parenting is all OJT mostly because kids are so different from each other. Kind of like adults, I guess.

        I am of the (brutally – sorry but I have my reasons) honest variety in my adulthood. Possibly based on one of my late mother’s mantras and how she sometimes (inappropriately and unnecessarily I thought) employed it: Lies walk the streets (and the truth will catch up with you someday). That means you have to keep track of them, which is most often hard to do.

        One of my mantras is that everyone is different and entitled to their own opinion. If someone asks for mine, I give it honestly. Especially for adults, I assume that they (as I mostly do) have enough self-confidence and self-esteem to not take it “personally.” My friends know me to be this way and sometimes I even preface my opinions with my mantra. I am trying to control myself better if my opinion is not requested, especially by an adult who doesn’t know me, or at least preface my comment by stating this is only MY opinion.

        Your situation called to mind something I experienced when my kids were in elementary school and has to do with who I had considered (and still do) my kinder Mini-me. I was told by a neighbor who had been in the room that she had loudly and possibly angrily and even possibly emotionally (crying) stated that she didn’t like the gift she had received as part of a class exchange. Because, like you, I was embarrassed by this surprising behavior, I asked some other adults to confirm (or deny) what had happened. Nobody I asked did either, and looking back I suppose I could have asked my daughter directly but I didn’t.

        On the one hand, I was kind of pleased that she knew what she did or didn’t like, though I was still surprised by what seemed to me to be an uncharacteristic overreaction by my kid. Overall, my thoughts at the time were to let it go and consider the source because I know this adult has lied in some cases solely for her or her kids’ personal benefit or at least convenience. I also wondered if she might have had some ulterior motive in just providing that information I had not requested in the first place.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I feel like I need to adopt more of that attitude… if you ask, you shall receive (my honest opinion, that is). I tend to be careful about what I say (as long as I know the full story and I know the context of the issues at hand).. Also agree, parenting is like learning as you go…. and it’s ever-evolving! Just when you feel like you’re getting comfortable, something else happens!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Aww this is a tough one. I do believe you should always tell the truth but sometimes you have to soften things to spare the feelings of others. That’s a difficult thing for kids to learn because things to them are very black and white. They don’t have the finesse to soften the blow.

    Just the fact that you are giving so much thought to this makes you an awesome mom in my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aw Michelle, thank you so much for the encouragement as always! I also like how you said that… we can be honest but soften it up… it’s true. Honesty doesn’t have to be harsh.. it can be delivered with kindness or love depending on the situation. It’s how I try to be with friends and family. Growth requires honesty from others and ourselves when we reflect back…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I am known for being brutally honest. So my take is if you don’t want an honest answer, don’t ask the question. Who’s to say that Charlotte is in the wrong here. She is not. But I can certainly relate to those I-came-across-as-a-crappy-mom moments. I racked up quite a few when my son was younger. We don’t all come up with those perfect-mom responses in the middle of such a moment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We all have a friend or family member in our lives that tells it like it is. I appreciate that you’re that someone for somebody! It can definitely be a refreshing perspective when we just want the honest-to-God truth!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Kids are more honest than adults. Kids speak the truth, even if the truth hurts. Charlotte was just being herself, in the rawest purest form. It’s us adults that sugar coat the truth because we fear hurting another person’s feelings – who’s telling the lie? Is it us, or or is our kiddos?

    The other day, my daughter’s classmate said that my daughter was “bad at painting.” I think it’s normal for kids to be blunt about things. My daughter was upset at first but got over it pretty quickly. She brushed it off and moved on. I’m guessing Blake will do the same!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right! With age and experience of adults came the need to sugar coat all things! That is one of the things I love about children is you can always tell they mean what they say!

      That’s a great point, too! Children are honest as ever but they also get over things way quicker! And that’s how they learn and grow and adapt!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. First off, thanks for keeping it real. You’ve described the exact scenario that happens to all of us at some point. We do our best as parents, and we don’t always get it right. It’s not fair to hold ourselves to some impossible standard of always being the perfect parent. The question you are asking is, “Is it okay to teach your child that sometimes white lies are okay?” I think the answer is yes, though it’s tricky ground. It’s obviously hard for a four-year-old to understand this concept. I wouldn’t beat yourself up by Charlotte’s comment because she wasn’t deliberately being harsh.

    I faced this question many times in my elementary teaching career. Sometimes the kids ask hard questions. “Is there a Santa? Marcus says I’m going to hell if I don’t believe in God. Is that true? Billy says I’m stupid. Do you think I’m stupid?” For sure, I’d tackle the last question by giving a nuanced answer such as, “We all have things that we’re good at and not so good at. For example, I’m good with numbers, but I can’t draw very well. That doesn’t make me stupid.”

    When the questions were tougher, I sometimes punted by saying, “I can’t tell you what to believe about this. I think you should talk to your parents.” When your child is old enough, then I’d introduce the idea of trying to be honest while also being sensitive to others’ feelings—easier said than done.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting take from an experienced educator! I always thought of parents having to deal with these types of awkward/difficult questions but never teachers and you’re so right! I can’t imagine having the foresight to come up with these quick responses suitable for individual students based on their level of understanding.. that’s another thing about teachers that we don’t always appreciate enough, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Oof this is soooooo tricky and such an amazing topic! My first reaction is CHARLOTTE’S RESPONSE WAS AMAZING AND SO PURE! And it’s a very classic young person response, like no filter, but they also don’t make it personal. It’s kinda like, no I just don’t like it. There’s no filter and it’s so hard to undo that filter as an adult. And it usually isn’t even appropriate as an adult to speak without a filter. So that’s why this is so tricky. And I totally understand your humiliation as well! Of course you wanted Charlotte to give a different answer and want to show her how to learn the art of not hurting another person’s feelings. It’s so hard bc she might learn that without your input. I think I did! I learned by people not liking me. Which sucked, but then I adjusted. And then as a grown woman I really adjusted to find ways to speak my truth and be kind and lie when necessary. I agree, the mother’s response was amazing. It’s interesting to think, if the roles were reversed and Blake said no to Charlotte’s picture, would you as Charlotte’s mother have judged Blake and/or her mother? Because if she’s an understanding mom, she might understand that you can’t exactly help how your daughter is going to respond in any given moment. You’re just doing your best like she is. Wow, such a good read!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • No filter, that’s exactly what it is! And it’s NOT personal.. she just don’t like it LOL.. but it’s fact. It’s amazing that when we grow up, the people we feel most close to are those that we can remove those social filters for… I can be an introvert and shy around new people but there’s nothing like letting loose with your girlfriends, not care about what you’re wearing or the fact that you don’t have any make-up on and just lounging in your granny panties and sweats bc you’re just tired and want to veg out LOL… totally off topic but this made me think of the filters we use when we present ourselves to the world as we age!

      And you’re right, this might be something she will need to learn on her own based on the reactions and feedback she gets from her peers… be nice or you simply won’t have friends… 😕

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: Liar, Liar #FridayFinds #Reblogs #Inspiration – My Corner

  13. Oh your post made me laugh. When my son was three we got in lift at the shopping centre with an elderly lady with a huge mole with hairs growing out of it. He pointed and said “that is very ugly” and I nearly died. Nothing could be done, however, and he wouldn’t do this now, at the age of 19. He has learned that sometimes it’s better to not say anything at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh my God! When I read your comment on my phone my jaw dropped LOL (and I also wanted to reply right away but my phone does something weird when I try to reply to comments on WP)!! I can’t believe he said that and in such a small space with no escape!!! LOL… it’s so funny now but I am sure you were mortified at the time! What was the lady’s reaction, was she kind about it? omg! My husband’s niece came to my bridal shower a few years ago and my grandmother was there (she was old and frail at the time, still is lol) and my husband’s niece (4 at the time) looked at my granny and said “wow, she’s OLD!!!!” hahaha it was hilarious!


  14. Oh my – you were hoping that Charlotte would top off saying “no” with “I love it, not just like it!” Having never had children, nor siblings, nor have I ever babysat, I’ve not really been around kids. I would be mortified as well. When I was a kid, my best friend and next-door neighbor, also named Linda, and I were inseparable. Linda was a bit of a bully and had a brother and sister and was high strung. She always picked fights and my parents told me one day “the next time Linda picks a fight with you, you hit back – don’t let her beat you up.” My father, for good measure, offered to give me a dime each time I stood up for myself. The next day Linda started hitting me, so I hit back and knocked her down and ran across to my house yelling “Can I have my dime now – I beat up Linda Crosby?” My parents were not happy with me – I got the dime but a lecture as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha that’s a funny story! It’s hilarious that you remember that and that your parents didn’t foresee the eventual outcome as it happened! I think it’s great, to be honest, that your parents taught you to stand up for yourself and not to take anyone’s crap! I do want to teach Charlotte to be kind but also not to sacrifice her self-worth in the name of kindness (I do believe both can exist though). Thanks so much for your input always! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes it was funny Jen, but I sure got in trouble. I was an only child and raised so strictly, so I guess they figured I’d remember the rule of “what is said in this house never is repeated outside of the house.” Oops! Yes, both can exist, but it is difficult sometimes to know how to do/say the right thing sometimes.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. I probably would find the situation amusing as a parent but try to use it as an opportunity to teach empathy. They are just children, not adults, so do not understand the sensitivity, adults are expected to display, when placed in a similar situation. I would probably also handle the awkwardness by acknowledging that it may not be Charlotte’s favourite thing and that is ok, but explain to Charlotte that even if she didn’t like the picture, people prefer to hear something complimentary about their work and suggest that Charlotte think how she would feel if someone responded to her about her own picture in that way.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Oh gosh, I probably would’ve reacted the same way you did on the spot! I would’ve been embarrassed too. But looking back at it, I don’t think anyone did anything wrong. It was an awkward moment yes, but nothing happened that was mean-spirited – the girls have probably forgotten all about it by now. I think about Charlotte (and my own daughter) growing older however, and I do think it’s more important for her to learn how to be honest (without meanness) vs sparing people’s feelings. Because when our daughters get approached later by boys, do we want them to encourage unwanted advances because they are trying to spare feelings, or, do we want them to be honest and set boundaries, and teach them that “No” means “NO”. We also need to teach children that “No” is an acceptable response and they shouldn’t continue to press for that much-desired “Yes”. You’re doing great job, Mama. And I would’ve reacted the same way you did. But I hope you get over your embarrassment soon, as you should be proud! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re so right- I love your insight on this! I definitely don’t want her to grow up prioritizing others feelings before hers or being a people-pleaser (especially raising a daughter, this makes me hyperaware). I am also seeing the nuances of being kind vs. being walked all over by others. Definitely don’t want to teach her that the latter is okay.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. The little child was innocent so she told the truth but we often lie. May be it was looking bad but we can’t say the truth ! Knowing the reality. Very beautiful article thanks for sharing 🙂😊

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I wonder how many times this has happened in my classroom. Plenty! At least 5 times a day. From the child’s perspective, they are resilient, move on, and the words are forgotten minutes later. You really are a wonderful mother, Jen. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I’m “honestly” thinking expecting people to be honest always isn’t always possible especially when we expect them to also be nice/kind. But where do we draw the line between outright lying and lying to keep someone’s heart is a tough one to draw. 🙈
    I lie A LOT – to cancel plans, to get my vendors to work better or faster, to keep someone’s heart or to get out of a bad date! But is that lying – bad lying? 🙈

    Liked by 1 person

    • Same!! ME- SAME! I have lied to get out of bad dates, plans I changed my mind about last minute, then it’s tough because I have to remember all the “things” I told each person to make sure my story sounds believable lol… I’m sure it’s so obvious lol but I lie because I feel bad but also don’t want to feel pressured to do something I no longer want to do… is that bad lying… it’s NOT the worst… I don’t think……


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