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Learning From Parenting Mistakes – When You Suspect Lying

This post is part of a series on parenting mistakes I have made. I am sharing those here in hopes that some of you may be encouraged that you are not alone in making mistakes and also to hopefully keep you from making these same mistakes.

Parenting Mistakes

One of the mistakes I regret the most happened when I strongly suspecting one of my children was lying. The thing is, I had no way of proving it, just a very strong suspicion. Here's what happened:

Just after my son had been playing alone in the backyard, I noticed that the concrete bird bath had been toppled over and broken into pieces. I immediately suspected that he had something to do with it, so I called him into my room and questioned him about it.

He immediately and confidently, too confidently, I thought, said that he didn't do it.

I felt certain that he had done it and was lying to keep out of trouble. After all he had just been out there, and everyone else was playing elsewhere. Who else could have done it? It had to be him. Circumstantial evidence was supporting my suspicions.

I went over all the above details and told him I knew he was lying and he had better confess. He stuck to his story and I stuck to my guns.

After a very lengthy session of "You are lying" and "No, I'm not," he finally confessed, although very grudgingly.

Years later, through many bitter tears he told me I had actually coerced him into lying. He had not really done it, but in order to stop my torturous accusations, he lied and told me he had. (We together concluded our large dog must have done it.)

Can you imagine my horror and shame? My own son could not trust me to protect him. From ME.

It took time and many tearful apologies from me to heal the wounds and mistrust that I caused him through my accusations.

Because of that incident and the damage done, my policy now is that unless I can prove a misdeed with conclusive evidence beyond a shadow of a doubt, I do not accuse.

I will ask for a confession, and I pray aloud for the guilty party to be racked with so much guilt that they will confess and repent.

Recently, we had an issue of unauthorized cutting of the baby's hair. I knew she couldn't have done it herself, because a big gap was neatly cut in the back. No one would admit doing it, but the baby repeatedly placed the blame on a certain sister. I was pretty sure the baby was right, but since I never got a confession, I did not accuse.

But every night during bedtime prayers, I asked God to lead the guilty party to confess and repent. She never did, and I have had to let it go. It is so important to me to never repeat the situation I put my son through, that I am willing to let a crime go unpunished, rather than falsely accuse a child ever again.

I hope to never repeat the awful mistake I made years ago, and I pray I won't make other mistakes that have lasting effects like that one.

The thing is, now I have enough years of parenting experience that I know mistakes are inevitable. It's the humility we have about those mistakes that can be a teachable moment for our children.

Of course, we don't want to make mistakes, but when they happen, we can learn, along with our children, about the power of forgiveness and God's amazing grace.

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  1. Whoa! Was that ever SO insightful! My son (9) rarely lies and when he does, he can’t keep a straight face. Very easy to get him to confess. My daughter (7) however, tends to lie quite a bit. But like in your story, most of the time I don’t have proof she’s lying. I don’t think she’s ever felt coerced though, because she rarely admits to anything. I love that you don’t accuse when you don’t have the proof. I need to learn to let go of having a confession… as much as that will drive me batty! LOL Thanks a TON! Your stories are truly helping mothers!

  2. Out of my ten, I have had a few children who have been really great liars. The kind that can look you in the eyes and say they didn’t do it, so convincingly that even if I see them do it, I almost doubt what I see.

    When I don’t know for sure, but am pretty sure that they have lied, I simply tell them that God knows, and what He thinks about lying (I show them from the Bible) and I pray. I encourage them to confess if they have lied and tell them they won’t get punished.

    One thing I emphasize is that when I know a certain child always tells the truth, even when they might get punished, then I can trust them, vs. when I know a child has a tendency to lie, then I can never be sure that they aren’t lying at any given time. And how much better it is to be able to trust, and to be trusted than to not ever be sure of someone.

  3. This is so timely for us as our son is going through a very strong attachment (understatement) to his money that he has earned. Multiple possible lies associated with said money have come up, but all with feasible alternative explanations. The hubs and I are trying to figure out how to handle it so this is an excellent perspective for us to consider. Thanks!

  4. This is a gem that is now stuck in my parenting tools – and I’m thanking God for that! I shared it with a friend recently too. It is a refreshing perspective that just makes sense.