How Can I Be a Father if I’m a Liar?

How can you be a father if you’re NOT a liar? For starters, honesty doesn’t occupy the bed. But that’s another story.

On April 10th “how can i be a father if i’m a liar” was used as a search term that directed some poor soul here to

He possibly landed on this post, about stealing candy. For which I’m certain proved to be of no help. Or possibly he found the one about parents lying to their friends. Damn, he may have even stumbled across the most recent one, about outcome-based praise.

Why do one-third of my blog posts have something to do with lying? Is it because I’m a liar? Yes… And because you’re a liar, too.


Lie-detection for me is somewhat of a hobby. I’ve seen every episode of ‘Lie to Me’ like 100 times! I’m certainly no expert. But when my emotions are removed I’m pretty successful. Try this test for measuring your social intelligence. This is a great tool for measuring how well you read eyes. It’s a great starting point for lie-detection. I scored a 32/36 (not a lie) on my first try. You should give it a shot and share your results in the comments. It takes about 10-minutes to complete.

If you’re at all intrigued, or scored well on the social intelligence test. I highly recommend you watch this TEDTalk. I’ll wait…

Okay – so duping delight is by far my favorite. It’s sometimes confused with nervous laughter. But it’s fairly easy to spot when a person’s head-nods do not correspond with their associated words. I’m fascinated by the science of lie-detection. But it makes for a skeptical existence. The better you get, the more jaded you become, in the realization of how often we lie. Watch for the signs at your next business meeting and try not to go crazy.

Bernake - Ben - Flipping the Bird - Middle finger - Chairman of the Federal Reserve - Fed Chariman - Partial Emblematic Slip - Duping Delight - Sincere Smile - Suppressed Smile
Bernake flipping the bird.

Here’s a clip of Rafael Palmeiro. Watch him hold his awkward stare, compound with subtle up-and-down head-nods. It’s completely contradictory to his testimony. His lying is pretty obvious when armed with the right knowledge. Rafael was suspended for steroid use 5-months after giving this testimony, back in 2005.

It takes two to complete the union of a lie, the liar and the sucker. I think most of us have the capability (and intuition) to realize most lies. We’re just afraid to dig deeper out of fear of offending the liar, or out of fear of realizing the truth. It’s a social agreement to accept seemingly innocent lies.

Lies are REALLY easy to identify, when the subject is three years old. It usually looks something like this:


We lie to our kids, every day. And they lie – right back to us. Their ability to lie increases as their language develops. Don’t worry, they didn’t learn to lie from us – it’s a survival instinct.

They lie to protect themselves from being exposed. From being found wrong or vulnerable, just like us. We often lie to merely protect the feelings of others. We claim to seek the truth, but we’re okay with accepting these lies. It’s easier. And we’re a little lazy. And afraid of what others might think. Hunting 100% truths risk breaking the barrier of an unspoken social agreement between humans everywhere – don’t push too hard to find the real truth. Because sometimes (the truth) you don’t really want to know. 

Some folks lie better than others. I suppose there are positives and negatives you can take from that. Practice your own lie detection, so you can become a better liar yourself. So that the next time your kids ask you “why?”, you’ll have a response other than “because I said so!”

Maria: “Dad, I have candy for breaskfast?”

Me: “No, honey.”

Maria: “Why I can’t have it?”

Me: “Because it went bad, and I’m going to have to throw it out.” *

* “Because it looks delicious, and I’m going to eat it during your nap-time.”






The Piggy Bank Caper

Did I (unknowingly) teach my oldest daughter to steal?

The other day a boy from our local High School was going door-to-door with one of those obnoxious fundraisers for his baseball team. This happens often in our suburban neighborhood. I usually feel obligated to help out. Not because I know one day, my two daughters will likely be in those same shoes. But more importantly – I feel inclined to help out the kids that are doing their own work. NOT THE PARENTS. I despise when parents take over these fundraisers for their kids - pushing the responsibility onto their family, friends, and co-workers. And now, these solicitations are popping up all over Facebook. Maybe I’m too old-fashioned. But there’s supposed to be a level of responsibility taught, in addition to funds collected. I write a lot about parental obligations and sending mixed messages to our children. I’m certainly not perfect – but don’t go out of your way to help your children cheat. If there’s a certain dollar amount they need to attain. Then teach a man to fish – so to speak.

I will make an exception for Girl Scout Cookies. Because me love cookies!!! They are delicious. And I don’t want to insult every co-worker I’ve ever had.

Now, back to the lecture at hand. This was one of those sticky-peely restaurant coupon type deelios. You know, the ones that have about a dozen restaurants on them; nine of which aren’t located anywhere near you. As the acne filled pubescent young fella fearfully stared back at me, anticipating common rejection – I took in a very deep breath, and sarcastically exhaled a very large, dramatic breath, translating it into an intended frustrated sigh. But, not with, nor directed at acne-boy. But rather with myself, because I just can’t say no. I need to make sure my fundraiser karma is on the up-and-up for future years. And this kid is obviously being raised properly. I can’t wait to torment my girls with perfecting their sales pitch. Briefcase, handshake, eye-contact and all.

So here’s where the tomthievery comes into play. I stow the dog, so she doesn’t make a Michael Scofield-esque escape attempt out the front door. I fumbled around the kitchen and the junk drawers looking for my wallet. I find the wallet. Of course, it’s empty. All I need is $10. Surely, I can locate $10 somewhere in this over-priced, depreciating home? I JUST had $37 dollars. Where did it go? I find my wallet and it’s empty of that precious $37. Coincidentally, $37 is equally as important when you’re a parent; as it is when you’re acne-boy on my doorstep soliciting for cash. $37 is pretty much rich, in “parent dollars.” “Parent Dollars” are like “Dog Years” because you need $7 to have $1. It makes sense – I promise. (Okay – full disclosure. I’m not sure it makes sense, but, let’s just not think about it.) I quickly check the giant Miller Genuine Draft coin collector. You know, because we’re classy and stuff. Also to no avail. It was showing signs of being recently ravished as its coin color was primarily a dirty, rusty orange. Seemed to be filled with only lousy, useless, copper pennies. Pennies are no longer appropriate for a guitar case or tin cup offering in the street. Even Jesus would have been offended. Pennies are more like a filthy choking hazard, than any kind of financial up-boost. Why do they even exist? I blame Sally Struthers. After all, the original piggy bank was designed in her image. I’m out of ideas. I’m going to have to tell this poor hard-working kid – NO.

But wait … I couldn’t. Or could I? No, I’d never forgive myself. Well, I could always pay her back. Yeah… It’s time to hit the lowest of the low. It’s time to crack open HER Sally Struthers piggy bank.

Now, she’s almost four-years-old. Not only is she at my feet 100% of the time, and especially whenever I’m using them. She also seeks my narration for every literal step along the way. George Clooney couldn’t pull off this heist. Unfortunately for me; at this juncture; my only option is honesty.

I look at her as I take a long painful swallow of pride. “Maria, Daddy needs to borrow some money from your piggy bank to pay that boy. Is that okay?”

Being the sweetheart she is, or the fact it’s in her genetics to spend money. She was very excited to help out. Elated, actually! Perhaps, she was thrilled to help, because she got to help out, in a way she had never before. With real impact and power. To assist the family in obtaining a peeler-card, with impending expiration through lack of use. OR, that she just gets to open her piggy bank. When you’re a toddler that’s right up there with swing sets, candy, and smearing poop on the walls.

She quickly runs to the piggy bank; Grabs the piggy bank; Then hands the piggy bank… to acne boy. The look on his face was pretty priceless when some 3-foot tall princess was trying to hand him a 10-pound pink pig with polka dots. I smiled – said “sorry” and redirected Maria (and piggy) to an open area on the floor where we could hunt through the dirty treasure.

I wasn’t sure exactly what we’d find. I mean, of course we’d find coins. Maybe a few one-dollar bills I’d slipped in there for when she was an extra good girl. Maybe construction paper, a drawing, hair-tie, probably hair, maybe a bobby-pin or even some Monopoly money. After much buildup and anticipation what we found made me question everything I thought I knew over the last 4 minutes, or 4 years. I found a wadded up handful of various dollar bills. At first, I assumed that this was her mother’s doing. As I counted this mystery wad of bills, I saw a $10 bill which would be perfect for paying off acne-boy. Thus, removing me of previous feelings of guilt. While I was very thankful – that the piggy bank had appropriate funds to bail me out. I was quite disturbed to learn the wad of bills added up to exactly $37.

We All Fail – We Don’t Have to Lie About It

I dread the day my (4-year-old) daughter learns that I don’t like all her drawings. It’s something I’ll soon have to tell her.

Dad’s face when … all day.

That drawing above is good for her age, I suppose. But not everything we do is good or deserving of celebration. Too often, we tell our kids they’ve done great work, when they haven’t. We’re responsible for shaping our children’s minds; Teaching them insights; And what it means to be responsible adults. We educate them. We teach them love – and sometimes hatred. But we rarely teach them HOW TO FAIL; or rather, how to COPE with failure. Children need to understand it’s okay to be a winner and a loser. We are ALL both… some of the time. There’s no reason to lie about it.

Children must learn to lose with grace – so they can win with class.

They must learn to follow – so that they can learn HOW to lead.

Parents, we need to learn to praise their efforts; and not just their success. However, providing undeserved praise, like participation trophies, can lead to entitlement - Entitlement that will result in extreme feelings of failure, when failures inevitably becomes reality.

Don’t praise failures. Don’t praise successes. Learn to praise their efforts. And reprimand when that effort doesn’t exist.

As a society, we praise and reprimand based on outcomes. For instance, “attempted murder” versus “murder” – exact same actions, with different outcomes. Same crime, with different punishments. We do the same thing when parenting. We tend to react differently, when the crayon doesn’t come OFF the couch, as opposed to when it does. What kind of message does this send our children? That it’s okay to bully, as long as it doesn’t go too far? As long as those bullied kids don’t start killing themselves?!? Seems like a big difference – but IS it?

Use effort as your measuring tool for your praise and rewards – NOT outcomes.

Outcome-based praise teaches children to hide outcomes; To lie; To cheat – in order to deliver results, instead of efforts. Then they grow-up and become lying, cheating adults.

We have things ass-backwards. Wrong is wrong. So teach your children to think for themselves. Teach them right from wrong. Teach them to win. Teach them to lose. Teach them cause and effect. Teach them to take responsibility for their actions. Ownership. Honesty. Teach them that outcomes don’t mean shit. Sometimes people get lucky. But more often than not – we fail. Baseball players fail 70% of the time, and are still All-Stars. Teach your children to accept failure; To embrace failure; To learn and grow from their failures. Teach them what other parents are not teaching their kids. Teach them to stand up for themselves. And to be proud of who they are, and where they came from. Teach them to fall down, so they can get back up again with their bats swinging.

Teach them that when they win, to do so humbly. So when they lose, they will do it graciously.

As (good) protective parents, with good intentions, we shelter our children from these feelings of failure. We try to shelter them from losing. We think we’re doing right by them. But instead, we (unintentionally) keep them from learning how to win, by trying too hard to not let them lose – (unknowingly) turning effective leaders, into entitled assholes.

Entitled Asshole
Entitled asshole who always wins.

Children aren’t born entitled – just like they aren’t born racist, sexist, or homophobic. They are taught. Teach them not to be ignorant, sore, entitled assholes. Teach them to be better. Challenge them. Don’t let them suffer, because WE failed. We ALL fail. And it’s nothing to be ashamed of, unless we didn’t try. And it’s nothing to be ashamed of, unless we didn’t learn…

We all fail – there’s no reason to lie about it.


REMINDER: If we don’t accept our children for who they are, then who will?