Sunday, January 11, 2015


Truth or Lie?

The business of lying/telling the truth presents foster parents with more problems than most people, with the obvious exception of the police. Only just, mind.

Until I started fostering I think I believed that something someone said was either a lie or it wasn't.

But for children from a chaotic home lying is a special issue.

Try watching any Jeremy Kyle and if a lie-detector isn't wheeled out every ten minutes you're watching Fake Britain by mistake.

Don't tell me you never watch Jeremy Kyle. That's a lie.

Or when you watch Prime Minister's Questions. You can't tell which one isn't lying. There's that maxim they use in poker, if you can't spot the mug in ten minutes, it's you. 

Don't tell me you ever watch Prime Minister's Questions, that's a lie.

As a foster parent I'm sometimes flattered when some parents think I know a bit more about children than the average parent. The truth is the more I learn about parenting the more I realise I don't know.

So a mum comes up to me in the playground and says that her daughter has started lying.

So I say "Like what?"

She says "Things like who spilled a drink".

So I finds myself saying " Does she say 'It wasn't me' or 'It was my sister'?"

And the mum says "What's the difference?"

The difference is because the two types of lying are poles apart; a bald lie is either defensive or aggressive. I only got this perception sharpened up by being in fostering.

"Mum! someone's spilled drink on the carpet!" is defensive. "It was my sister" is aggressive.

There's a huge stretch of territory in between which is the tricky bit in fostering.

The reason is that when your own children try it on (I can't bring myself to say one's own children "lie", it's such a fierce word), you know them inside out. You know all about the circumstances, the likely truth, the giveaways.

At one Blue Sky training session I was tickled to learn that when a child tells their first fib it's cause for celebration because they've reached a level of mental development where they understand that other people have brains like theirs and take in information in a similar way to how they do.

A foster child though, even if they've been with you for some time, is still a comparative stranger.

A comparative stranger who may have had to learn how to lie to survive. 

I think it boils down to how much they trust you not to over-react and go ballistic. There are few better moments in fostering than the first time they volunteer that they've done something wrong. I find it's important to tell the truth oneself, especially if you screw something up.

Lying can even be quite creative, I like this old story:

        Two monks were arguing about whether it's okay to smoke and pray at the same time. They agreed to let the abbot settle the dispute. The first monk goes in to see him and comes out with his tail between his legs "The abbot said I was a disgrace to the order and I'm on kitchen duty for a month." The second monk went in and came out beaming "The abbot praised my devotion and has asked me to take the evening service every night this week". The second monk said "Tell me, what exactly did you ask the abbot?" The first monk replied "Why, I asked him if it is acceptable to smoke while praying, what did you ask him?" The second monk smiled and said "I asked him if it was acceptable to pray while smoking".


  1. Ella here (as opposed to Eve) - I lied to avoid being beaten by my birth father. Simple at that really. Once I had been placed in Care I stopped lying. Simple as that as well! :)

  2. Thanks Ella, hope you are well and happy. We people who have no real idea what you have been through can only express respect. Sadness at what has happened to you, but awe that you have come through.
    ps I'm SO looking forward to your book!