This week our family hit a major milestone – our firstborn child told her first big lie. And you know what’s worse? She told it…to cover up a crime!
The evidence was pretty damning. We started finding little clumps of cleanly snipped hair all over the house. In the bathroom sink. On the kitchen floor. Even at the bottom of the stairs. It looked like a regular mane massacre in there.
And we didn’t need an elite squad of highly intelligent and super-sexy DNA analysts to figure out whose hairs they were. The length and color of the samples could only match two members of the family – the Doctor, and our four-year-old daughter. And Mommy’s hair was currently looking like a Real Housewives reunion show…way too long, and in desperate need of a cut.
It was pretty clear that our daughter had cut her own hair, but when we asked her about it, the little perp refused to fess up.
Which put us in a tough spot. We knew she lied and we didn’t want to let it slide. But since this was new territory for us, we had to try lots of different strategies in order to get the hair-clipping criminal to crack.
Strategy #1: Promising that we wouldn’t be mad.
Even though we’ve told our daughter repeatedly that “scissors are only for paper,” the actual haircut didn’t bother us as much as the lying about it. So we told her that we wouldn’t be angry at her if she did the right thing and told the truth.
We thought for sure that offering this “get out of jail free” card would do the trick. But we weren’t even close.
Strategy #2: Getting tough.
Our next move was to put on our “bad cop” pants and tackle the issue head on:
“We know that you’re lying and lying is not okay.”
This also got us absolutely nowhere. She stuck to her story and feigned incredulousness that we would even think such a thing.
Strategy #3: Changing the subject.
After two failed attempts, we lost our steam and decided to talk about other things – like what city should play host to the next CSI franchise, and the most dramatic way to remove your sunglasses while in the midst of delivering a clever pun about murder victims.
In addition to giving us all a much-needed break, we figured it might also take the heat off of the situation and lead our daughter to eventually admit her wrongdoing all on her own.
Not a chance.
Strategy #4: Talking about her feelings.
As our interrogation progressed, the clearest sign that our daughter was lying was that she was getting more and more emotional. It started with requests for hugs, then eventually devolved into all-out sobbing.
Even after we had stopped talking about the hair, her tears kept coming. Which led us to our big breakthrough: our little girl feels guilty.
So we tried focusing on the feelings that the event had caused instead of the event itself.
“We think you’re crying because you’re lying and it feels bad. The only way to make that bad feeling go away is to admit that you did something wrong so we can talk about it and then go back to having fun.”
This strategy worked immediately. She confessed and felt relieved right away. If only we had thought of that first…
This experience reminded us of some pretty awesome parenting lessons:
- Talking about kids’ feelings is really powerful. More than anything, your child wants to feel understood, so talking about your child’s emotions can help her move past them to get to a solution.
- It’s good to have lots of strategies at your disposal. The more parenting tools you have in your tool belt the better, because you never know which one might pay off in a particular situation. Hopefully our experience has given you a few more ideas to add to your arsenal.
- There are no perfect parents. Us included. A lot of parenting is trial and error, and we’re all just doing our best to get by with the information we have. But because the job we’re doing is vitally important for shaping the kind of people our kids will become, we can’t ever give up just because the going gets tough. Keep trying to solve each mystery until the very end of the show – because the criminals never confess before then anyway!