Blackmail From The Mouths of Babes

by admin on July 5, 2011

Well my mother is a teacher, and her close friends (a teaching couple) were moving away, so another teacher was having a simple barbecue at her place. The leaving couple had a three year old daughter “Alice” and the woman hosting the party had a six year old called “Zoe”.

For the most part, I found myself hanging out with the kids.  Alice was a very lovely girl- well mannered and found her own ways to amuse herself without annoying the adults or her parents (who were looking after newborn twins also).  But she would happily chat if she was spoken too.

Zoe however, was one of those children that needed constant attention from adults- would cut off your conversation and insist on making you watch her cartwheels etc.

I let them take turns sitting on my knee while I would bounce them making galloping noises.  I had given Zoe a long turn, and then said it was Alice’s turn now.  After about a minute, Zoe started trying to push her off and said it was her turn again.  I firmly but friendly told her that it was still Alice’s turn.

Later, I gave them both piggybacks.  I had stopped and was talking to one of my Mum’s colleagues when Zoe insisted I give her another piggyback.  I feigned being tired and said I was all piggy-backed out!  She then said, “Give me a piggy back or I’ll say you hit me.”  I was speechless!  I looked around and all these teachers were looking at me as if to say, “Well how are you going to deal with this then?”

I ended up saying, “Are you a liar? Because I don’t like to play with people who lie to me.” And walked off.

Is it more of a breach of etiquette to tell off someone else’s child?  Or to not mention anything (so that I don’t embarrass the parents) but the child thinks its okay and keeps going?

I don’t have children, so I don’t know what I would prefer. I still don’t know if I did the right thing!  0702-11

Something similar happened to my then 13 year old son years ago when we offered educational farm tours to school groups.  A small, kindergarten-aged girl had broken away from her mother and the group, had gone over to the fence where a steer calf was tied up on the other side of the fence.  She was reaching her arms through the fence trying to pet the calf.  My son had gently turned her away and redirected her back to the group only to have the child head straight back to that calf.  Her mother was oblivious.  On the fourth time, the girl ran back to her mother crying and  screaming, “He hit me!”   I had watched  the whole scenario play out and he had done no such thing.  Fortunately her mother ignored that accusation but had she made an issue of it, I was prepared to ask her to leave the premises.

I believe you acted just right, OP (who, btw readers, appears to be female).  I would have no further contact with a child who learns blackmail at an early age.  I’d also seriously ponder whether to bring this to the attention of a parent.  But that is a potentially dangerous path to take because some parents cannot face the reality that Darling Little Foo Foo has a character flaw or misbehaves in any way.  One has to be prepared for an epic case of denial and estrangement but really, what would one be losing anyway?  False accusations of sexual and/or physical abuse are a serious matter and people who perpetuate them should be shunned into social oblivion at the very least.

{ 96 comments… read them below or add one }

AlwaysQuizzical July 5, 2011 at 4:09 pm

I think the OP did exactly what she should have done in this situation. I don’t know if telling her parents would have turned out well or not, but the child learned quickly and painlessly that lying wouldn’t get her the thing she wanted. In fact it lost her a playmate for the day, which seems appropriate. If you had gone to her parents they may have disciplined her which would have been good, but they also might have defended her which would have done more damage to her in the long run. This way she got a clear message that what she did was wrong.
I wouldn’t write the child off on one incident, every child lies at some point and they either learn that it works or they are taught that it doesn’t. If it were me and I saw the child again at another event I would treat the child as if the previous incident didn’t happen, but if she does it again remind her that lying still isn’t ok and that she shouldn’t expect many more chances.

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Calli Arcale July 5, 2011 at 4:27 pm

You did the right thing. I’d tell the parents — they probably want to know. And if they don’t want to know and get offended, well, that’s their loss.

This is strangely timely, actually. My youngest daughter has recently learned the power of lies. Up until now, she was only using them to conceal wrongdoing, and fortunately, she is not a very good liar. (“Did you eat that chocolate?” “No.” “Then what’s that brown smudge on your face?” “Nothing.”) We’ve been getting after her, trying to teach her that lying is much worse than confessing to the wrongdoing, but she’s still pretty young, and the very young usually have to learn these lessons several times before they stick. This morning, however, she upped the ante — she’d just been told off for playfully pouncing on her big sister and hurting her, and so she tried to refocus sympathy on herself by saying “Ouch! She kicked me!” Now, I was watching the whole time, so I knew this was a lie. I was absolutely shocked; she’s never done that before. I’m sure she’ll try it again, and I hope that if she tries that against an adult, the adult will tell me. I need to know if she’s doing that, because that needs to be corrected as young as possible.

I think it is entirely appropriate, though, to require that a blackmailing child be removed. There are serious liability and safety issues — never mind the possible lawsuit, but what if it it’s done to cover bullying? It’s not just crime victims who refuse to testify for fear of retaliation; that stuff goes way back to elementary school.

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Zhoen July 5, 2011 at 4:30 pm

For those saying, “But she’s only six!” are perhaps waiting to teach their own children to tell the truth and be polite until, oh, later, I guess. I remember as a small child, being told this about younger bratty cousins and neighborhood children, and thinking, well, I learned to share and play nicely before that age.

As for shunning, well, there are consequences to actions. Lies end friendships at any age. Especially lies that cause harm. Would another six year old be any less absolute? Better to have it done consciously, with an explanation, by an adult. So when her best friend won’t play with her anymore because she lied, she’ll know what she did.

I’m sure this is innate for some children, but given the potential consequences, it needs to be taken very seriously by all concerned, and never reinforced with any kind of reward. I hope Zoe finds a way to tell the parents, not because they will listen, but because it is the truth, and it’s important. I can’t imagine a better on-the-spot response than what she gave. Just beautiful.

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David July 5, 2011 at 5:12 pm

The OP handled it quite right. It shut Zoe down and did not reward her in any way for her attempted blackmail.

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Jamesy July 5, 2011 at 5:54 pm

I’m pretty much in agreement with everyone here. Great job, OP.

@–Lia: I understand your point, however the OP wasn’t hired to amuse the children. She spontaneously offered them “horsey rides” on her knee. She is not a Pre-School teacher with a planned curriculum made out to incorporate all the children fairly; they were at a barbeque. This was a multi-tiered lesson for Zoe just as much as it was a shocking one for the OP.

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lkb July 5, 2011 at 6:34 pm

@JS: I respectfully ask that you not “use the Lord’s name in vain”. Many of us here are Christian and we take the 10 Commandments quite seriously. Thank you for your consideration.

I too agree with how the OP handled the situation. I wonder if Zoe got the blackmailing idea from television and movies that have similar themes and a bright six-year-old could conceivably want to copy a behavior they saw on t.v. Just a thought….

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starstruck July 5, 2011 at 7:15 pm

i think what you said was just perfect. it was a good lesson. no one likes or plays with a liar

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karma July 5, 2011 at 8:17 pm

Best quotes so far:

“At the age of six it is impossible to diagnose anything for sure, but just remember that all sociopaths were six once…”

“You made the claim that those of us who do spank our children occasionally are child abusers, thus you need to either back up that claim irrefutably. Or, more to the point, you need to re-examine your hypothesis and apologize.”

“I think there are a lot of people with ruined careers that aren’t in a position to “unclench” right now, because of lies like this. It’s all “just a phase” until you personally are facing felony charges.”

“Children who were spanked and turned out fine are not statistical outliers, they are actually quite normal. Children who were regularly beaten and turned out ‘fine’ are the statistical outliers, depending on your definition of ‘fine’.”

You guys rock. You. Rock.

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Aje July 5, 2011 at 8:23 pm

I agree, she’s only 6 and there’s plenty of time to learn her lesson. And her parents can only do what they can. Half of growing up is learning how to behave well when Mom and Dad aren’t there… and I know that plenty of times in my childhood I didn’t do things because I knew it would get back to my parents. So I do think that people should tell parents what’s going on… to a certain extent. If you were a daily part of this child’s life- watched her after school, a leader at her soccer camp, etc., then you would certainly have the right to tell the parent, “Hey, this is a problem.” But for this one occasion, OP handled it just right.

As also said by other commenters, I too, would have been tempted like some to say, “You go ahead and do that,” because there were witnesses. But I think that for a little child, it would actually be a bigger insult to not be played with. The rest of the bbq would have went on and she would have been subject to watch Alice having a nice time with OP- because she is no longer friends with OP due to her lies.

Cheers OP, you’re a lot more quick on your feet than some of us might have been.

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The Elf July 5, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Twik and Zhoen – I don’t think anyone is saying that this should be ignored or that it isn’t serious. Of course it needs to be addressed and yes, blackmail is very serious and could have career-ending consequences for any adults caught up in it. I’m just talking about child development. It’s not pretty, but it’s true – children develop morals slowly. At 6, she’s not yet old enough to have really figured things out. She needs to be corrected, but writing her off at this age is too extreme.

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etimodnar July 5, 2011 at 9:21 pm

@Zhoen “For those saying, “But she’s only six!” are perhaps waiting to teach their own children to tell the truth and be polite until, oh, later, I guess.”

Not at all. Children need to learn manners from the very get go. But it’s an ongoing process. Even now I’m still learning when to hold my tongue and when to speak. She’s only had 6 years of learning this stuff. She’s at the age of pushing boundaries.

Children in my primary school class LOVE to lie to me about altercations. Does that mean I just wash my hands of it because they’re in primary school? NO! Rather, I use it at a teaching opportunity. If I started encouraging the other children to socially ostracise them, I’m encouraging bullying, actually. That’s already happening! Children don’t want to play with other children who lie! Except those children who are liars don’t understand what’s gone wrong and lie even more to get even with those who used to be their friends and now are making them feel sad.

My strategy is to help the liar see that what they’re doing is bad. Try to give them strategies to use in future (such as not lying). Ways to make up with their friends. But they’re still in primary school. They’re still learning. Sending them to etiquette hell for not understanding what’s so bad about what they’re doing because they’re six is a bit much. What if Zoe grows out of this phase and becomes a lovely person, huh? What if she’s socially shunned, never understands what she’s doing, thus continues into adulthood, huh? I’m not saying we shouldn’t educate children. I’m saying she’s a bit young to be shunned.

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--Lia July 5, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Jamesy– I think we’re pretty much in agreement, but let me clarify anyway.

BEFORE the nasty blackmail comment, the OP was having fun amusing the kids. She didn’t have to, but she was enjoying playing horsey with them. It seemed like they were enjoying it too, but there was a sign that Zoe, for whatever reason, wasn’t able to handle the taking turns aspect. It wasn’t OP’s job to make Zoe happy under all circumstances, but if you’re trying to have fun with the kids and you realize that you’ve chosen a game that doesn’t turn out to be appropriate, you improvise something else.

(Compare this with a game that involves a lot of running or physical activity that one kid wants to participate in but that she can’t because she’s too small or gets asthma. As soon as you realized it, you’d switch. You wouldn’t switch because you had to. You’d do it because it’s more fun for you if it’s more fun for them. In this case, something about Zoe was too immature for the game, and she signalled it by being impatient when Alice took her turn.)

AFTER the nasty blackmail comment, all bets are off. OP did the right thing.

A note about bringing up other people’s children– In some parallel world, parents would be able to control what every adult says to their children. In this one, the instant parents allow their children to interact with you, they give up their rights to control what you say to them. They’re allowed to expect that you’re not going to spank them. (I’m not getting in the spanking/no spanking argument. I’m talking about a guest at a barbecue. We can all agree that strangers aren’t allowed to do that to your children.) They’re allowed to expect that you’re not going to tell such scary stories that you give them nightmares and that you’re not going to encourage them to jump off the roof. Other than that, let’s face it, any time you say anything to a child, you’re influencing them and, in a sense, bringing them up.

You share your values when you say what a darling dress the girl is wearing, and you share your values when you ask what kind of stories she likes. So there’s nothing wrong with stating that you don’t play with liars any more than there’s anything wrong with making growly noises while giving rides on your back. If the parents object to the latter, the time to step in was when you started the former. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not allowed to discipline other people’s children. It’s part of being with them anyway.

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Just trying July 5, 2011 at 11:11 pm

(Omitting giant long backstory)… I have an aunt who is a pediatrician, specializing in learning disabilities. She has a grandson who has threatened to lie about being molested, beaten, etc., as a means of getting his own way. (See giant long backstory) My aunt has made the positive decision to never be alone with this child. Any time Grandson comes to see Grandma, she makes sure there is another adult present. She fully understands Grandson’s psychological issues, but she will not risk her own reputation and position due to accusations from a child who has threatened to lie.

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LMVattimo July 6, 2011 at 12:23 am

JenJen: Negative reinforcement and positive reinforcement can be rather confusing. The key difference is between reinforcement and punishment. Reinforcement means doing something that the child wants, i.e. rewarding them. Negative reinforcement is taking something that the child doesn’t like away. An example would be removing a curfew. Positive reinforcement is giving the child something he/she wants, like a new toy or an extra hour of TV.

Punishment can also be positive and negative depending on whether the parents are giving things that the child doesn’t want or taking things that they do want (like giving them extra chores or taking away privileges). The terms are taken from the theory of Operant Conditioning and are often misused or ill explained.

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Izzy July 6, 2011 at 12:51 am

I think the response was awesome, congratulations for keeping your cool. Personally I would have told the parents, otherwise I would be bothered for a long time afterwards if I never told them and the kid really does tell her parents you hit her, OR gets someone else in trouble by lying and the other person gets sued.In fact, if you tell right away, child learns there are consequences to lying, plus you have witnesses to back you up. If the parents don’t listen? Well at least you know that relationship was one you could go without anyways.
Sadly part of the comments section has descended into a spanking vs not spanking arguement, I think that’s quite off-topic, neither side is going to convince the other…

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anonymous July 6, 2011 at 12:52 am

Zhoen – kids develop at different paces and hit stages at slightly different ages. Just because you learned to play nicely at six doesn’t mean every child can, or will. It’s an easy trap to fall into: “I don’t see why that new mother is so tired, my kid was a dream and I had tons of energy!” or “I don’t see why she doesn’t like Bill…we all think he’s great!” or “Well I could read when I was four, so I don’t see why little Sally is struggling!” or “I could pay attention in class all day in first grade, so that little boy shouldn’t have any trouble.” Yeah, kids are different People are different.

I’m right down the middle on the “but she’s only six” thing. Yes, I think that’s too young to write the kid off forever and yes, I do believe that kids of that age do test out lying to see if it works (I did, but never to that extent) and that this behavior can be rectified with proper parenting, care and intervention. “I’d never have anything to do with that child again” is really too harsh in my opinion.

BUT that doesn’t mean that the girl should have gotten away with it, or that she should be absolved of any consequences because “she’s only six!” – if anything, she really needs to feel consequences now, because this is a very influential learning stage. She shouldn’t be let off the hook, but she also shouldn’t be chucked into juvey and have the key thrown away. I think the OP did just right.

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StephF July 6, 2011 at 3:18 am

Stace:
re: the DGS conversation.
I’m not going to enter into the spanking debate, but I need to discuss your phrase:
“take a look at your own tone, and understand how deeply and horribly you insulted all of us who do spank our children “.

Just because a person’s “feelings are hurt” by a statement, doesn’t mean the statement cannot be made. A doctor may have to tell a patient they are having fertility problems because they are overweight – sure, it’s embarrassing and hurtful, but it doesn’t change the fact that the doctor has reason to believe he is right.

But to the actual story:
To those that have had this kind of experience and have told the parents and have felt the parents didn’t take the issue seriously, I wonder if that was simply because the parent was so embarrassed and bewildered by the situation, they felt the need to cover it up?
I know if I were a parent in that situation, I’d be so embarrased, I would probably apologise quickly and laugh a little, but once we got home there would be BIG trouble!

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SV July 6, 2011 at 7:13 am

OP’s response was perfect. I do not believe that just because the child was 6 years old she should not be held accountable for what she said – how else will she learn what is right and wrong? At 6 years old a child might very well test the waters to see how far they can push boundaries, but that doesn’t make it okay. No matter what the age or situation, blackmail needs to be dealt with with a firm, clear message. Way to go, OP!

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Just Laura July 6, 2011 at 8:21 am

To lkb, re: JS –
I respectfully ask that you not “use the Lord’s name in vain”. Many of us here are Christian and we take the 10 Commandments quite seriously. Thank you for your consideration.

That commandment specifically says that “you” should not take the Lord’s name in vain. It does not say that you may tell others not to do it; in fact, it says that the Lord will handle those. I respectfully ask that you please don’t tell the rest of us (i.e. those not adhering to Abrahamic religions) how to write/speak. While not the best choice of words, apparently the Lord will punish us in the Lord’s own time.

I agree with SV, as well as several others, who have said if not 6, then when? Is 7 too young to hold the child accountable for actions with potential legal consequences? How about 8? 12?

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Stace July 6, 2011 at 8:45 am

StephF

The doctor is a professional that has examined the patient and has been specifically employed to provide that information. And, as you pointed out, the doctor actually has reason (backed up by actual, legitimate, peer-reviewed studies and personal experience with the individuals in question) to believe he is right.

None of those are the case here.

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Xtina July 6, 2011 at 8:48 am

Let me add another response to say that the parents should be told about Zoe’s threat. Also let me add another voice to saying that this is not just a passing kid thing–children who learn to lie and manipulate early on will keep on doing it and it will get worse unless someone stops the behavior. As one previous poster astutely pointed out, that’s the difference between a typical kids’ lie and a “scary kid” is that Zoe is trying to get someone else in trouble–thus she recognizes the power she has as a “poor, defenseless little kid” and is not afraid to use it. This needs to be nipped in the bud right now, or in the case that the parents don’t believe it, at least it’s starting a mental file of people attesting to Zoe’s behavior.

OP reacted properly–refuse to acquiesce to the child’s threat and walk away.

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Cat July 6, 2011 at 9:34 am

I think that those who think the lie is the problem are not getting the point. A child lies about eating a cookie after Mommy says no and we are not surprised. The point was the threat. “If you don’t do what I want, I’ll get you in trouble even though you did nothing wrong.” It’s not the lie; it’s the use of threat to achieve ends. The gangster says, “Pay me protection or I’ll burn down your store!” Maybe he’s lying and won’t burn your store-and maybe he will.

When I was in college, a man I was dating said to me, “If you don’t have sex with me, I’ll go back to college and tell everyone you did so your reputation (this was a long time ago) will be ruined. So you might as well do it.” The lie would contain the threat.

I am tougher than I look. I said, “If you do, I’ll tell everyone we tried and you are incapable. We’ll see what that does for your reputation.”

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karma July 6, 2011 at 10:21 am

There’s a difference between not have full morals and ethics developed yet, versus making a statement that intends to get an adult in trouble. I’d even say there is a difference between trying to get a child peer in trouble versus trying to get an adult authority figure in trouble. That speaks volumes about the particular six year old in the story. Too, I would argue that this is not a manners/etiquette issue at all. This is really about ethics/morals/values/norms.

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Robert July 6, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Not lying or blackmail but once when I was skiing a young boy about 7 or 8 quite deliberately spit at me and my wife. He didn’t hit us but I was furious. When he approached an older girl and an adult couple I went up and asked the man if he was the boy’s father. When he said yes I said, “I don’t want to start anything but I thought you should know that your boy just spit at me and my wife.”

I’ll give the kid this; he didn’t lie when his father asked him if what I said was true. About five minutes later I saw the mother practically dragging the crying child off the slope telling him, “I don’t care how sorry you are you are not skiing anymore today!”

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--Lia July 6, 2011 at 12:39 pm

I’ve already said that the OP’s response was perfect, but another, eviler thought occurs to me after reading others’ responses. She might have said “then I might as well hit you since you’ll tell everyone I did anyway. Come here; I’ll make sure I do it hard.”

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Caper July 6, 2011 at 1:12 pm

I think you did the right thing, OP. And I agree with the admin’s note, about steering clear of kids who blackmail. There are so many cases where children have been known to use this type of manipulation to get their way and ruining adults because of it. I won’t take the risk.

Yes, as a lot of people have point out “she’s 6″ but to me, I don’t care how young the child is or if they need to be taught a lesson. I care more about preserving my reputation as a good person, than risking tarnishing it by a blackmailing child, who very well might lie about me hitting him/her and having other adults believe said child. It may seem harsh, but in a situation like that, self preservation comes first.

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Enna July 6, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Maybe the child said what she did because of her age however that doesn’t escuse it, the OP did the right thing and used negative reinforcement – the OP has helped with that child’s lerning and development. I would only “shun” a child who made a habbit of telling lies or constantly showing malice to others. As for telling the parents or not – both of the options are valied “right” choices to make.

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Lizajane July 6, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Lia,
I wish we had a “like” button.

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sj July 6, 2011 at 8:45 pm

WHAT? Where does a six-year-old even learn that? That’s horrible.

This can’t be the first time, can it? Maybe her parents have noticed this kind of behavior before. Maybe they ignore it. Either way, I think the OP did the right thing. And, I’d probably never play with her again, sheesh!

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Cass July 7, 2011 at 1:27 am

There should be absolutely no tolerance for this sort of thing for anyone, regardless of their age. To all those who think that just because she’s a child means OP needs to lighten up, there’s a difference between kids lying that they played with fairies or that they saw a crocodile as big as a house, which are “natural lies” in the way they develop the imagination and a kid outright using blackmail.

My 12 year old relative accused her grandfather, my great-uncle, of rape. Of course her mother, as any good mother would (despite the fact that the accused was her father), took her seriously because it was a serious accusation and brought her to the police. However in the entire week that the girl claimed the incident took place, and she verified the date numerous times, her grandfather had been on holiday with my father. There was no way in hell, evidence wise or going by past character that this man in any way hurt his grandchild. Why did she do such a serious and damaging thing? I don’t know. She was the product of a messy divorce with an absent father and a mother left guilty but even so, this was such a serious accusation that even though the charges were dropped very, very fast on account of no evidence, her grandfather lost his job and was barred from his church. That’s how badly any accusation of this kind sticks.

Never, ever tolerate this sort of lie in children because it will grow and it will get worse and it very well might damage another person’s life.

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Edhla July 7, 2011 at 3:00 am

I don’t have children yet, but I love them and spend a lot of time with them. My nieces are 7 and 5, and I’m well aware of what kind of things kids do at that age to test boundaries and see what happens.

But I literally gasped when I read what that child said. There is something psychologically wrong with a child who does that, whether they learned it or whether they were “born twisted.” I can’t believe some people think that it’s normal for six year olds to use false accusations to manipulate.

OP, I think you did the right thing. As adults, we all know that if we don’t behave in a socially acceptable manner, other people won’t want to associate with us. The same should be taught to children. Nobody likes a liar.

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chaoyinglin July 7, 2011 at 4:31 am

Yes, as a lot of people have point out “she’s 6? but to me, I don’t care how young the child is or if they need to be taught a lesson.

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Enna July 8, 2011 at 11:48 am

@ Etimodar, I think what the OP was asking for was advice, personally I think the OP did very well, she didn’t loose it and she wasn’t imtimidated by it. Yes the child is 6 and it could be her age. I think if a 6 year old stole they would need to be punished and taught in away approiate to their age as that is how children learn.

We don’t know how the child has been brought up. Children learn things not just from their parents but from other children as well. There is a chance that this child learnt it from another child or was on the receving end of it. I would be inclined to give the child a second chance, if she does it again tell the parents. On the third “offence” don’t invite the family around anymore. Also children can change for better or for worse over time. She might turn out to be a good girl – maybe the OP’s negaitive reinforcement has helped that. Sometimes an indivdiual can suffer abuse from someone then accuse someone else. E.g bullying.

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Enna July 8, 2011 at 11:48 am

but they are too scared to name the acutal bully.

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Sarah Peart July 9, 2011 at 12:46 pm

I would make the difference between lying and blackmailing – to harm someone! If a child lies about not eating some chocolate it is not harmful in itself – children rarely eat so much that they do not at least eat some dinner afterwards and/or the parent will skip the next offer of chocolate/dessert because they are responsible for balancing their child´s diet. However blackmailing people to do your will does not end and people´s reputations are at stake. Every one of the stories where the child was not believed the accused had an alibi – what if it is a teacher/adult alone with the child? And 6 is not that young!!

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FxL July 10, 2011 at 4:08 am

I agree with most people’s comments here that the OP did the right thing in her reaction and the child definitely needed to be called out on that behaviour. She probably learned a hard lesson that will be often repeated if she didn’t absorb it this time around. It will just be harder to maintain friendships as she gets older and fails to realize that kind of manipulation and extortion only hurts people and leaves you lonely.

And, while I am in favour of telling the parents in question when children do this, and discipling the children for it, I do firmly believe that every parent should decide what that entails. To the Tylers of the world: Don’t expect to always coast unscathed in your methods. One of these days when you spank or smack another person’s kid it is incredibly likely that you will get a bit of physical altercation yourself from the kid’s parents. And they will probably feel as keenly justified in their actions as you did when administering them to their children.

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Enna July 10, 2011 at 12:04 pm

@ Cat I liked this: “I am tougher than I look. I said, “If you do, I’ll tell everyone we tried and you are incapable. We’ll see what that does for your reputation.””

Lying is bad, what Zoe said was bad, did she carry through with it? I think the OP’s reponse was great as 1) she did not give in 2) Zoe was punished, as she lost a playmate. Surely that is sending out a clear message to the child? Did Zoe carry through with her threat? Also if there were other people around there would be no witnesses to the assult.

It was visious what the child said, but not evil. I would say an evil child would be like Jon Venables or Robert Thompson who at the age of 10 killed toddler James Bulger.

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Tori July 11, 2011 at 11:55 pm

Wow…some people can be really manipulative.
A few years ago I was having a movie night with some friends M,B,and D. My little sister K was there along with her best friend T, who is D’s little sister. At the time I was 13. M, B, and D were 11, 12, and 12. K was 8, T was 7. What you have to understand about K and I is even though we fight-a lot- we still are very close and I know when she is lying or telling the truth. Anyways the movie was on TV(it was a kid movie, K had been dying to see) and during the commercial (I had wet toe-nails) I had K get me a refill on my soda. A few minutes later D asks K to get her a refill too. K says no as the room we were in was upstairs and the kitchen was downstairs and she didn’t want to miss any of the movie. D was really mad at this as she pretty much expected everyone to drop what they were doing to serve her. So the next day D’s Nintendo DS goes missing. She blames K, saying she always wanted one and was always trying to play on it. Then she goes on to day “She did it because she’s Mexican”. First off horrible stereotype. And even if it was true that Mexican people were raised to steal things, K was raised by white people.(She and I were both atopted-at birth so no foster homes for those who will ask). And THEN the DS was found in K’s closet. K got her butt whipped for stealing and had to go apologise. Later I was asking her why she did it…she said she didn’t and like I said I know when K is lying. She was 100% truthful. So I go chew D out and she admits she planted the DS in K’s closet. Now for what happened next I am going to blame my fluxing teenage hormones. I slapped her. Twice. And called her a manipulative B-word. I got my mouth washed with soap for that…totally worth it.

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Ann July 12, 2011 at 2:46 pm

One wonders about the home life of a child who behaves this way.

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Leah July 12, 2011 at 5:44 pm

I am a mother, grandmother, and retired preschool teacher.
Bravo, OP!
You did just enough and not too much.
If you come across the child again, feel free to play with her but keep the earlier remark in mind. She may say something similar to see if you really meant it, especially if others let her get away with that behavior. If she does, break off in the same calm, matter-of-fact way as you did before.
Slow-dripping water makes more of an impression than one can know.
-
I would not have told the parents (that you did not know) as others who have a relationship with them were present and most likely would do so in a manner more likely to be believed.

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Kai July 14, 2011 at 11:17 am

I agree that a misbehaving six year old shouldn’t immediately be shunned for life. At six, they still have time to learn and the OP here gave her a great lesson. However for those thinking that this behaviour was nothing, think again.

About ten years ago, my mother asked my brother and I if a certain teacher at preschool had ever hit us. We told her no, there was no way this particular teacher would ever hit anyone. The reason she asked? Apparently the teacher in question was facing a committee because a parent had filed a complaint that the teacher had hit his child. Worse, because the teacher was white and most of the kids were Chinese, the child had claimed that this teacher had hit him because of his race. She lost her job and was banned from working with children. When it was later proven that it was a lie, and the father admitted he knew it was, he also admitted that he went along with it because he didn’t want a non-Chinese looking after his child. Guess we know where the kid learnt his horrible behaviour from.

While a child should not (in most circumstances) be immediately shunned because of their behaviour, if not nipped in the bud immediately these children will indeed grow up to be the selfish horrible people we fear they will be. This child may indeed have just been pushing boundaries, but she was playing with a person’s reputation. The OP’s response was perfect; though I would have informed the parents as well. Any good parent will listen and attempt to change their child’s behaviour.

However I knew a monster of a boy who was the way he was BECAUSE of his parents belief that he was God’s gift to the world. He was their firstborn son and so was their most treasured possession; even more so than their older daughter or their younger son. He was the most evil little brat I have ever encountered. He was friends with my brother (or rather, my brother was his little follower), and so when he was at our house he would regularly steal from my mothers purse. He stole from the soccer club, and let his brother take the fall. He also started rumours that my brother had stabbed someone. When my mother calmly and politely informed the parents (who she had been close friends with) about his antics, they practically threw her out of their house with much screaming and threats to call the police and they have never spoken since.

While some parents do decide to ignore their little darlings flaws, I would hope most parents are reasonable and try to do the right thing. Even if I felt a parent would get angry with me, I would still tell them about their child’s behaviour. You should do the right thing by giving the parent the chance to change their child for the better; it’s not your fault if they don’t.

Once again though I think the OP was great.

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AngieM July 14, 2011 at 2:54 pm

I think the OP acted correctly. What a perfect response. It is amazing what kids will do to manipulate things in their favor and they need to know it is not okay.

I probably would not have told the parents, if you didn’t know them well. I once had a parent threaten to beat the crap out of me in a Hobby Lobby parking lot because I told her that her sons were using the store wheelchairs inappropriately and had run over my foot. She told me it was none of my business what her kids were doing and I had no right to correct them (by asking them to please not roll over my foot) and that I must think I am a perfect parent (I’m not) and she would like to meet me in the parking lot so we could settle this out there (fist raised). Um, okay. Some parents don’t take this well.

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Politrix July 20, 2011 at 10:56 am

Hi! New poster, here. Love the site — this is my first contribution, I just couldn’t resist — what a story!
I chuckled when I read Lia’s comment about threatening to hit her anyway, but of course in real life that would be a terrible thing to do, because a.) what if the child called her bluff? Would she really go through with it? Probably not. Then the child would have even less respect for her b.) It also risks teaching her fear that maybe she shouldn’t say anything even if someone does hit, bully or do worse to her .
I think the OP handled it perfectly, but in addition, I might have informed Zoe that what she was doing was not only wrong, it has serious consequences, and grave repercussions. I might explain to her the meaning of “libel,” “blackmail,” and “character assassination” (big, scary words that have big, scary meanings) to really drive the point home.
Or maybe that’s too much? Well, then if I saw Zoe again, I’d offer to tell her a story: “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”

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See August 7, 2011 at 1:51 am

I take care of kids not for a living but I have done it for 20 years basically this month come to think of it :D. Anyhow the latest offspring is four and she already knows how I handle lying (telling stories). It depends on what she lies about. If she tells me she’s going to do something (go inside, finish whatever I’m trying to get her to do, clean up a toy) and she doesn’t I consider it a lie. Then the next time she wants to go back outside, play with the toy she doesn’t get to. I tell her that that she lied and next time she doesn’t get to do it and stick to my guns. No it’s not lying in the traditional sense but it’s telling stories (forgot where I picked that one up from) and that’s the same thing. Her brother lied to me about a friend calling home one day (long story) and when I asked the friend what his mom said the truth was he never called home. I asked the baby do i like people who lie and she said no. Yeah I think I scared the kid even though the comment was aimed at her brother not him.

She was trying to hit me one time, we were at my parents house who spoil her rotten and didn’t see why I was getting so mad. I finally said fine and would not get close to her for an hour I think it was even for a hug. She loves to be held and cuddled especially by me so not getting near me hurt her. If she tried to get close I said no because she wanted to hit me. Yeah that stopped it there.

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Hmmm... August 24, 2012 at 8:14 am

:O Where do kids learn this stuff?!

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late to the mark September 22, 2012 at 8:44 am

I’m a year late, but thought I’d add my 2cents for anyone interested. I have to admit, when I was a child I did this. It’s a story my aunt has told me and she still thinks it’s funny.

I would have been 5 or so when my aunt was babysitting me and my brother for an evening. I guess I didn’t want to go to bed so during my bath I told my aunt (who was in her early 20s and hadn’t been around kids much) that if she didn’t let me stay up I’d tell my mom she caused a bruise on my leg.

Well, when my mom got home my aunt told her the story and my mom asked “what did you do?” My aunt said she had let me stay up, to which my mom replied that “I wouldn’t have believed her, she’s always getting bruises” (I still bruise easily to this day). This happened about 30 years ago, and I don’t know what my mom did /said to me after this but I think I’ve turned out well.

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