Five-Year-Old Fails Polygraph Test

It started as a simple conversation at dinner. We usually go around the table, and each person talks about their day.  The 2-year-old always wants to go first, refuses to take questions, but just enjoys everyone looking at her.  (“I’m not DONE YET!” is a familiar screech.)

The 7-year-old talked fondly of the science experiment in her desk, a mealworm named Squirmy who was getting ready to turn into a beetle.  Then it got to 5-year-old Josh, who regaled us with stories of Star Wars reenactments on the playground and a secret reader in class.

After a few questions, I wrapped up with:

“Did you buy your milk ok today?”

Did you buy chocolate milk?

Every once in a while, Josh likes to buy milk at the school cafeteria to go with his lunch from home.  Fine, I say.  A break from the juice box.  But the rule is, you buy white milk.  Not chocolate.  Because that’s dessert in a carton.  And I already packed dessert.  And we don’t usually drink chocolate milk.

“Yep, I bought milk,” he said with a weird look on his face.

I know that look.  I’m not a poker player and I know that look.

“You did?” I probed.

“Yep.”  He said.  Super weird look now.

The mother’s intuition alarm bell started clanging.

“White milk?”


“Um, yes white milk.”

“You had chocolate milk,” I say.


“No I DIDN’T!” He insisted.

Which meant he did.  All I did was look at him and he caved.

“Well, I maybe had chocolate milk,” he confessed.

Then it hit me.  He lied.  WHY? I had that sick feeling of if-he’s-lying-about-milk-then-what-ELSE-is-he-lying-about?  Why lie about milk?!  What does it mean??  WHAT HAVE I DONE!  So I did what any rational (neurotic) parent would do.  First, I lectured the liar about telling the truth, trust issues and chocolate milk nutrition facts.  Then ran straight to the computer to Google “kids and lying”.

First, I found many message boards with parents wondering why their 17-year-old lied about skipping school, stealing $300 and drinking beer.  Shaky with thoughts of my 5-year old landing behind bars from a life of lying and stealing, I stumbled upon this article from the Wall Street Journal.  I was surprised to find out that lying at age 5 doesn’t really mean much – but it’s actually a good sign. Researchers say  “The fact that their children tell lies is a sign that they have reached a new developmental milestone.”

Milestone!  Sounds impressive.  In fact, the study says kids with better cognitive abilities actually lie more.  Because when you lie, you’ve gotta keep your story straight while knowing the truth.  And that makes your brain fire up in high functioning ways.   Hmm.  I don’t think I’ll be touting my son’s newly found fibbing skills any time soon.  And certainly I’ll have to repeatedly stress that lying is not tolerated in our house.

Oh, and he still can’t buy chocolate milk.

9 thoughts on “Five-Year-Old Fails Polygraph Test

  1. If I think my kids are lying, I ask, “what’s wrong with your nose?” “What?” “Why is it growing?” Worked when they were smaller. ha.
    If you lie your nose will grow like the little wooden boy named Pinnocio… Run DMC

  2. This blog post made me smile. I had my daughter write a written apology to her dad and I, when I caught her fibbing (at about the same age). I kept the note for her scrapbook.

    Good job, Christy. Keep up the great work as mom. They do go on to become great kids once they get past their foray into wayward “independent” thinking.

  3. When I was five I used to steal Life Safers at the check out line. I started to get bolder with the quantity of Life Savers I put in my pocket. One day, I went too far, even by my own standards. I think I stuffed like five packs in one pocket and five in the other. I made it through the check out no problem, I was psyched. Until I wasn’t psyched anymore. A shroud of guilt overcame me as we made our way to the car. I started balling right there in the middle of the parking lot. My mom didn’t know what was wrong. I just reached in and pulled out all the Life Savers and showed her. We took them back, she made me say sorry, and promised I would never do it again. I didn’t. We never really talked about it again. I think she felt super bad for me. Either way, I think lying is one of those things we push the boundary on early on until we get overcome with guilt and realize it sucks to lie.

    • Marco – you’re lucky you didn’t get 5 to 10 for lifting those Life Savers! And if they were the butterscotch ones, who could blame you?? Glad to know a little guilt goes a long way… and yes, simply, it sucks to lie. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. On behalf of Mom Look University, we would like to present you with your diploma, earned with an A on your final-exam essay. Your “All I did was look at him and he caved” proves you are indeed worthy of commendation. Hearty congratulations, Ms. McDonald. Sincerely yours, Lynn B. Johnson, Provost

    • “I’d like to thank (gulp, sniff, overwhelmed w/ emotion), my mother – who taught me everything I know about the “Mom Look”. As a victim of many mom looks, I knew that one day I’d be able to give my own. And I’d like to thank Mom Look University for upholding evil eye standards across this great land.” (excerpt from Christy McDonald’s acceptance speech)

  5. Pingback: Post #1 // Analyzing 2 Blogs « one.lost.chica.

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