Growing up a goody-two-shoes with relatively laid back parents, I didn't have a reason to lie. Sure, I "told stories" the same as any other kid, but lying wasn't a necessary adaptation when it came to my childhood (or teenage) survival. I have a similar dynamic with my 5-year-old son: he doesn't lie often, but when he does it's usually so funny I'm not even mad my kid is obviously lying. When I've related such stories to my parent friends, I'm inundated with similar stories of hilarity, which usually end with some variation of, "I couldn't even scold them, I was laughing to hard."
Maybe it's the novelty that makes children's lies easy to forgive. Maybe it's that, after years of them not really being able to do much of anything on their own, we're pretty impressed with their ability to not only recognize the benefits of lying, but construct a self-serving narrative. Maybe the fact that they're almost always so laughably bad at it completely disarms us. Whatever the reason, it's one of those parenting things where you're like, "OK, on paper this isn't good, but holy sh*t this is awesome and I am going to embarrass them with this story for years to come." (Let's be honest here: parenthood is way more full of those moments, sometimes, than I ever could have seen coming.)
The ways your child might lie can manifest in a number of hilarious ways, so chances are high it will be damn hard to muster up a f*ck to give for any of them.
When They Have No Chill
This tends to be my son's motive. He doesn't lie a lot, but when he does it's a ridiculous, pre-emptive lie that only draws attention to the fact that he's trying to get away with something. Like, he'll skulk into a room with his hands behind his back and then loudly announce, "Mom, I don't have anything in my hands right now. They're behind my back, but I'm not holding anything. But don't look, OK?"
I honestly can't bring myself to care about the fact that he's lying or even what he's lying about. Seriously, he could have some stolen, priceless art behind his back and I'd be like, "Whatever, tell me more about your horrible poker face, kid." I should care, probably, but I don't. Because the fact that my kid has zero guile at all is pretty hysterical.
When They're Really Bad At It
When panic prompts some kids (and adults) to lie, they are so caught off-guard that it's like watching a fish flop around on land as they die a slow, awkward, painful death. Watching that as a parent? Hilarious.
Sorry not sorry, but if you're going to try to get one past me, you'd better believe I'm going to relish watching you sweat through it.
When They're Creepily Good At It
Sometimes, even when a lie is glaring and obvious, a child's commitment to that lie remains undiminished and unwavering. With a stone-face and direct eye contact, they will tell you that they didn't bite their brother, even though you can clearly see the marks on their sibling's arm.
When The Truth Is All Over Their Face (Or The Wall. Or The Floor.)
*Parent walks into room to find their child covered in marker*
Parent: Child! Did you touch the markers when I told you not to?
Child: No! You told me not to touch them, so I didn't touch them!
Parent: Are you lying?
Child: Nuh-uh! I'm telling the truth.
Either you don't care about the lie because it's so obvious it's crossed the border into funny territory, or you don't care because you're more preoccupied with the huge mess you're going to have to clean up. Either way and for whatever reason, you simply don't care and at least there's some freedom in that.
When They Blame Something On Someone Who Couldn't Possibly Have Done It
An infant sibling who can't roll over yet, much less fetch a jar of cookies. A pet goldfish. An imaginary friend. A cartoon character. You. There is no one a child of a certain age will not throw under the bus to get out of catching the blame for something, and it's pretty hilarious. In that moment, your kid believes that blaming Elmo for breaking something is going to fly. Like you'll hear that and at the very least this tale will cast reasonable doubt on their guilt.
When They Can't Keep Their Story Straight
Because, really, any level of questioning is probably going to rattle them and it's funny to try to watch them talk their way out of it.
When They Get Outlandish
The rule of thumb when you're calling out "sick" is to not get into too much detail, because it reads fake and desperate. Like, don't tell your boss a long story about getting bad tacos or something. Just say, "I'm not feeling well. I won't be in."
Some kids haven't read this particular memo, though, so their lies will get really descriptive. The more descriptive they get, the crazier they sound. So, for example, your child wasn't the one to knock down that vase because they were throwing a ball in the house. It was just that they were really hot, so they opened two of the windows, and a bug flew in one window, a red bug, and then a bird must have smelled the bug and that's when it flew in the other window, trying to eat it! And it was a really big bird! With yellow and blue feathers! And it also had teeth! And the bird flew around the room trying to catch the bug. And then the bird built a rocket booster so it could fly faster! And it was flying so fast that it bumped into the vase and broke it. And your child was so surprised they dropped the ball they were holding. And that's why it looks like the ball broke the vase, but it didn't.
When They've Done Something You're Not At All Upset About, But They Think They're In Trouble And Panic
I did this a lot as a kid. I assumed any slight deviation from the rules was a punishment-worthy offense. (My parents had not given me the slightest indication that this should be expected, by the way. I was just a stickler for the rules, I guess.)
My kindergartener will start to do this sometimes before eventually tearfully confessing the truth and begging forgiveness, and I'm just like, "Um. I didn't ask you if that was your cup because you're in trouble for using it. I asked so I knew whether or not to put it in the sink. Relax, little man."
When They're Going For An Academy Award
I don't think there's anything a child can lie about that couldn't be forgiven if they were melodramatic enough about it.
Parent: Hey, who shaved the cat?!
Child: *slowly turning* Hmmmmmmmmm? Why mother dearest, whatever could you... OH MY GOODNESS! LOOK AT THE CAT! THIS IS THE FIRST TIME I AM SEEING THE CAT SHAVED, CERTAINLY, FOR I HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS!
Parent: Child, did you shave the cat?
Child: Why MOTHER! How DARE YOU accuse me of such a horrible and wicked deed?!
Parent: Really? Because I get the idea your lying...
Child: I would NEVER lie to you! I am WOUNDED that you could think such a thing!
Parent: Why are you talking like an ingenue in a movie from the '30s?
When They're Unjustifiably Indignant
I feel like indignation of any stripe is really funny on a child because it's such an adult emotion and kids mimicking adults is usually pretty hysterical.
OK, it can actually be really frustrating, but depending on the lie and the child (and the frequency with which this occurs) it can be really funny to see a kid get all bent out of shape over something they obviously did and stubbornly adhere to a narrative that exculpates them despite all evidence to the contrary.
When It's A Noble Lie
If your kid is lying to, say, prevent a friend from getting in trouble, yeah, it's not great that they're lying but at least you can feel good about the fact that you've instilled in them a sense of loyalty, bravery, and selflessness.