Tuesday Topic: How Do You Deal with Lying?

This has absolutely nothing to do with the topic; it's just a rare and calm moment.

It is 3:00 in the afternoon and I am finally putting up today’s Tuesday Topic. It’s a good one, so even though it hasn’t been up all day, I hope you will take a moment to leave a comment. Stacy wrote,

What looked like an initial easy first 6 months home, one of my new four is now constantly lying to me (never to my husband). She will look right at me, lie then say, “Mom I promise I am not lying!!” This happens over and over for sometimes hours on end, in the meantime she is screaming like a small 2 year old having a fit. She is around 8 years old. I started rocking her in the rocking chair two nights ago and then instantly had two great days, but WHAM, today she is back to not listening to anything I say and lying…

My question is what do you say, as the Mom, to a child that you KNOW is lying to you? I usually deal directly with the lie, then follow with ” Nothing you can do will make us love you any less.” (sometimes so very hard to say, but is still said).

I don’t know about you, but lying can downright make me nuts. As I told Stacy, surprisingly, we have not had huge issues with lying, but when we have, it has been a big challenge for us. I don’t have any wonderful words of wisdom, so I’m relying on those of you who have had the privilege of parenting a child who lies with regularity — or who used to lie with regularity — to please share your thoughts.  Be brave – just toss your thoughts out – don’t worry about saying it all perfectly; trust me, when I start worrying about that, I stop writing and it is no fun at all.

Encourage one another,

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

34 Comments

  1. Leah
    March 22, 2011

    I know lame to comment with someone else's thoughts but I found so much help from these video blogs.. http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=christinemoers#p/u/2/iDnEy8Rn4fY

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      March 22, 2011

      Here is the link to Christine's video on lying:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDnEy8Rn4fY

      Good stuff.

      Reply
      1. Linda G
        March 23, 2011

        I LOVE that video! If we consistently follow Christine's advice, the lies tend to go away. I remember one social worker telling me that if the traumatized child's mouth is open, assume they are lying. We went through a time when the kids would lie about silly things, like what they ate for lunch. I learned to never ask them if they did something wrong or even asking them a question I already knew the answer to. They were with me or another adult constantly, so they didn't have many opportunities to get away with something anyway.

        Another thing to consider is that if the child has been prenatally exposed to alcohol, he or she may not know the truth. Things get mixed up in their brain, especially if they are in a panic state for some reason. Sometimes it is easier for them to make up something than to admit they don't know.

        BTW, the kids are much better at telling the truth now, than a few years ago. I think just knowing that they are safe with us makes it easier to admit to a wrongdoing.

        Reply
  2. Amy
    March 22, 2011

    O Heaven Help Me and WHAM, answers right there on your blog!! =D Our three year old (I know common, common) just started lying and I honestly YESTERDAY was googling it. How awesome to have you all as a gift from God. THANK YOU!!

    Reply
  3. theinnermostbox
    March 22, 2011

    We have an eight year old who lies regularly – and about things that will make a person BATTY! A typical scenario often goes something like this. I smell hand sanitizer at the dinner table (it's the heavily scented bath and body works kind). I know it can't be hers because she has used it so profusely, we have taken it from her fearing that she will dry out her already dry skin or ingest too much alcohol and make herself sick. She flat out denies using ANY hand sanitizer at first. Then makes up a story about stealing from a boy at school earlier in the day (since I did not smell the hand sanitizer when she came home from school I know this is not the truth). She sits on time-out for taking something that does not belong to her, and cries violently accusing me of NEVER believing her. Protesting adamantly that although she has told me many lies in the past, she is telling me the truth right now. I tell her that I wish I could trust her words but that unfortunately I can't because of all the lies she has told me in the past. I remind her that it will take many truth-telling times before I am able to have confidence in her words. I remind her that I love her, but remind her that I am not happy with her choice to lie to me, even though she continues with her emotional insistence that she is telling the truth about stealing from a boy at school. At bed time, three hours later, she confesses that she took the hand sanitizer from my purse. However, the next day, I see her brother's hand sanitizer sitting on the window sill in the bedroom and know at that moment, that even her heartfelt confession was also a lie. We have been instructed by an adoption counselor that truth should always come from us. By keeping our cool (sometimes VERY hard to do) and by setting an example of truth telling, we encourage her both to trust us, and see the positive in telling the truth. By handling lying in this way, we are able to gently instruct her in how to tell the truth, deal with only the offending behavior and not stack repeated lying again and again on the list, and we short-circuit the stress of extracting the truth from her. Eventually, we hope that she will have enough confidence and character to tell the truth on her own, building these things is a slow process.

    Reply
  4. Julie
    March 22, 2011

    Phew…lying is a tough one. It's especially hard as a Christian, because lying is in the Top 10, right up there with adultery, murder, and idolatry. It seems like such a personal assault that I have to really watch my reaction in order to do the most good and gain the most correction.

    I always try to remind myself that this is a survival mechanism. She's afraid for me to see the dirt on her soul. She lies because she wants me to think the best of her. She wants me to think she combed her hair, or cleaned up her toys, or didn't kick her friend, or thought up the art project all by herself. She's trying her best to be a good kid, but she keeps messing up. She doesn't want me to see the mess-ups. So, I try to think the best of her. She's lying to please me.

    Generally, I playfully ask,, "Is that the truth?" or "Are you sure?"

    If she persists, I will get down on my knee, make eye contact, and, gently but seriously, say something like, "I know the real Cupcake is a truth-teller. Are you sure ___? It's really important to tell the truth." If there was a witness, I will tell her that I intend to ask so-and-so what happened, so it's best to tell the truth right now.

    If she keeps it up, I usually just raise my eyebrows and say, "Hmmm." (as if I'm saying, "That's interesting.") and walk away. Later, I will come back and try to talk about it.

    Sometimes there are natural consequences, sometimes just grace.

    When everyone is regulated, we do spend a good bit of time talking about the boy who cried wolf and about other people that we don't find trustworthy and why we can't trust them. We talk about the importance of trusting family and the examples of truth-telling her brothers and sister show. We talk about the time it would have been easy for them to lie, but they told the truth instead. We talk about the time they messed up and got in trouble, but we still love them. We talk about getting in less trouble for telling the truth than for lying.

    I'm not sure if we're doing it right, but I feel like she wants to tell the truth more and more, even when it's hard.

    Reply
  5. Lisa
    March 22, 2011

    We had a lot of issues with lying with my now 9 year old, and still do from time to time (today in fact!). What helped a lot with us is something I got from someone else. We have a Correction Cup. It's a small cup that holds pieces of paper, 6 to be exact. If she lies, she chooses one "correction." Beforehand we talked a lot about lying and what the Bible says and this cup is used ONLY for the lying. The pieces have things on them such as copy page of book, no tv all weekend, vacuum basement, clean bathroom, and then one that says Mercy. We talked a lot about how even when we mess up God gives us Mercy. Sometimes she chooses that randomly and we speak about His Mercy for us. Sometimes she chooses clean bathroom (all of it) which she detests. And sometimes something in between. When we began there were times she had 3 of these a night, or more. Now it's rare. But it worked to stop it, and now it's more the "normal" kid amount I'd say. 🙂 Good luck!

    Reply
  6. learningpatience
    March 22, 2011

    Usually there's a great deal of kicking and screaming and gnashing of teeth and yelling and whining and crying . . . but that's only in MY HEAD! Lying makes me nuts!

    On the outside the kids usually see a parent maintaining a calm, cool exterior and the "let's talk this out" voice. And we do exactly that . . . talk until the truth comes out. We do tell our kids that they will always get in more trouble, if they lie. We try to maintain our end of that deal too, but the consequences vary based on the circumstance.

    I learned a lot from the videos linked above as well!

    Reply
  7. Cassie
    March 22, 2011

    Ok, first of all I want you to know that I am a VERY new mom. My husband and I have been foster parents to a 2 year old boy and 9 year old girl for 3 months and this is our very first placement. So…I'm not at all very experienced. However, we have been dealing with the same issue and we received some advice from our little girl's therapist that seems so basic, but knowing our girl it makes so much sense and we're already seeing the fruits of the labor.

    She too lies about the silliest things. Like telling me that she brushed her hair when it's beyond obvious that she didn't. Or pretending that she can't remember the name of her social worker who has been her social worker for 15 months. Goofy, goofy stuff.

    Anyway, something we've learned about our girl from hard places is that 1) she's constantly testing to see if we really love her and 2) she does not in any way respond to negative based reactions. In other words, for her it's critical that we do reward based parenting. So, instead of taking away her weekend Wii time for bad behavior at school, she earns her weekend Wii time for good behavior at school. Instead of taking away her privilege of playing her DS on the bus in the morning for having a bad attitude and not completing her morning checklist, she earns her DS on the bus in the morning by having a good attitude and completing her morning checklist. You get the idea.

    The lying has been so frustrating for me because I absolutely know she's lying and I want her to have consequences for her dishonesty. However, her therapist recommended we try something different… Now, we watch/listen like a hawk for when she tells us the truth the first time…even if it's tiny and silly. And then, we praise like crazy, like crazy. It's unbelievable how much of an impact it makes. I know how hard it is to not deal negatively with the lie, but instead we just pretty much ignore it, tell her she needs to rethink, and then when she comes up with the truth (even if it's after lying) we praise and praise like crazy. It's extremely counter-intuitive for me and maybe it's not something that will help your sweet girl, but it's making a difference for ours. 🙂

    Reply
  8. Claire
    March 23, 2011

    It has been really helpful with those of our kids who get tempted to lie, to give a little prep/pep talk before actually putting them on the spot with the question they're going to want to lie in answer to. Something like this: "I'm going to ask you a question now, and I want you to remember that God hates lying, and it is better to swear to your own hurt than to act like you hate God. Do you hate God? Are you one of God's children? Well, then, you have to tell the truth about this. Now:"

    I like to incentivize this, too. Less discipline for a discipline-worthy offense if the kiddo bravely told the truth about it; and lots more discipline for lying, even over something minor. The kids all know it's a super big deal if they lie about something they did, even if what they did in the first place wasn't so bad.

    I'm thankful to be able to add this: have lots of faith. We had to work pretty darn hard over the course of a year or more on one of our kids, and sometimes we wondered if we would ever come out of that tunnel. But that particular child now has the most tender conscience of them all.

    Reply
    1. Emily
      March 26, 2011

      Couldn't agree more! Especially over the lessened consequence for confessions, and extra consequences for lying.

      Reply
  9. Lisa
    March 23, 2011

    I agree with Cassie. Praise, praise, for the truth. We talk about how being truthful is more courageous and admirable than lying. I often can tell when they are lying and we face off, but their survival instincts turn on like a switch and you almost can't convince them they just lied. They actually believe its truth.
    Our counselor told us not to argue with them and wait for them to calm down to talk later, but I really have found I can't because they forget so quickly what really happened. I engage them right away to let them know I care enough to get to the bottom of it. It has been successful most times and I show them how proud I am when they finally confess. Our son is less pliable than our daughter. He will argue the sky isn't blue because he really hates admitting he is wrong. I look him in the eye and tell him we aren't going to continue to go around about it, but I know that I know that he lied, so his lying hasn't succeeded and leave it at that. He is the one who needs the most praise for his attempts at truth. It is so very hard, but we seem to be making progress..slowly as always!

    Reply
  10. Phyllis
    March 23, 2011

    Oh, I am so happy you are asking this question! We have been dealing with a lot of lying recently. And as many have already said, it is the silly, senseless lying. (Although, we have also had a bit more of serious lying just this week). We are trying to figure out this new parenting style that we need to change to since the past 2 years we have felt like we are banging our heads against the wall! Our previous parenting experience is not working this go'round.

    I have already read some interesting comments and am anxious to read more thoughts!

    Reply
  11. Tonggu Momma
    March 23, 2011

    I adore Christine's thoughts on this topic (the video linked in the earlier comment).

    Also, one thing that I found worked effectively with the Tongginator is to just plain keep her close to me when going through a lying phase. It didn't remove all of the lying, but it did help with a ton of it… because I was usually right there when things happened. To this day, I tell the Tongginator that the more we can trust her, the more she can do. It's not about punishment or discipline, but about keeping her SAFE. If I can trust her to tell me the truth, then I can trust her to be more independent… because then I know she will tell me the truth about what happened and I can help keep her safe and/or teach her how to make safer choices the next time around.

    Last week I wrote a blog post that was kind of long and convoluted, but the gist of it was that the Tongginator's Chinese culture teacher asked the class, "what one word is the secret to happiness?" And the Tongginator? Who is newly seven-years-old? The Tongginator said TRUST.

    Reply
    1. Leah
      March 23, 2011

      This is wonderful…I can't wait for the day when our B can answer in the same way..

      Reply
  12. Jeannette
    March 23, 2011

    We have a bottle of diluted (all natural) soap. Anytime our son lies we just say "go get some soap" and he goes and takes a swig. (The point in him administering it is that he lied, he deals with the consequences.) We explain that his lies (about the. most. obvious. things!) are dirty and need to be cleaned out of his mouth. We try to keep it very unemotional (on our part). Later we explain that the more he lies the less we believe him (and show that by double checking his statements on frequently lied about topics). Times when he doesn't lie we point out what would have happened had he lied, but how he didn't get soap because he told the truth and praise his good choice.

    Reply
    1. blessed
      March 23, 2011

      Jeannette, I too try to parent so that the consequence fits the lesson needing to be learned, and I hear that you are using a natural product and have your child's safety in mind. What you are doing is logical, and not at all abusive. But whenever I hear about kids having to wash their mouths out all I can think of now is that poor mom who sent those videos of her punishing her kid with hot sauce, and how abusive it all was. So, would other moms who do theraputic parenting please comment on how this kind of approach does or does not fit into what you have learned? If such a dialogue is considered healthy and permissible within this comment section. : )

      Reply
      1. One Thankful Mom
        March 23, 2011

        I welcome dialogue at A Bushel and A Peck, as long as it is kind and for the benefit of teaching and encouraging one another, not tearing one another down or accusing. Feel free to interact, discuss, and come alongside one another. I definitely think it is healthy and good. Thank you for asking.

        Reply
      2. Jeannette
        March 24, 2011

        blessed, thanks for your affirmation that I'm not trying to abuse my child! I'll just share a couple of things about why we chose this approach. 1) We have 2 other young children and the eldest was "inspired" by her brother's lying to try it herself. We felt that this needed clear line of "this is not 'family behavior'". 2) We have tried either ignoring it (and dealing with the inner issue) or making light of it but sad to say, it really doesn't work with our son. He thinks he has fooled us then and just ramps up the behavior. He needs a clear consequence for his actions and then he can be forgiven and we move on. But again, times when he normally would have lied but chooses the truth instead, we praise him very specifically for that. We have discussed this very thing (and our discipline method) with his/our counselor and he is okay with it.

        Reply
  13. blessed
    March 23, 2011

    My kids are well attached and neuro-typical, but I am finding that so many of these theraputic parenting ideas work great with my kids, and appreciate this topic being addressed, as it is highly pertinent to our lives and my oldest daughter in particular. One thing she and I have been working on (I need this lesson in my own heart as much as she does!!!) is speaking the truth. This means that whenever one of the kids says something untrue–from outright lying to "I hate you!" kinds of heart lies–we give them a chance to think about it or cool down, like in their room, (they don't have to stay in for a specific amount of time, but are always told to come out when they are ready to speak the truth) and then they have to say aloud the truth of the situation or the way they are feeling to counter the lies that had been spoken. (to be cont.)

    Reply
  14. blessed
    March 23, 2011

    Pt 2
    There is such power in the spoken word, so I have found that this works really well too when I find myself saying lies to myself in my mind–from "these kids are driving me crazy" to "I'm such a bad mom"–when I catch the lie in my head, I have to speak the truth alound (even if I do it quietly ; ). This is especially important if I am ever feeling under a spiritual attack–Satan can't read my mind, but he can hear me verbally take a stand against lies!

    I wrote a post about Speaking the Truth on my own blog a while back, a bit long, but a beautiful story at the end, if anyone is interested. http://oblesseday.blogspot.com/2010/07/speaking-t

    Reply
  15. Lori
    March 23, 2011

    When we adopted our two girls from India three years ago, they lied quite frequently. I am not sure of all their motives, but I think the truth is thought of a bit differently in the Indian culture. I am NOT maligning the Indian people. I just know from experience that they have a different way of telling and seeing the "truth".

    I remember talking to one of the girls about something that had happened and I didn't know who had done it. We had been teaching them about the Bible and God's standards. We had also taught them that God could see everything – even what they thought was in secret. The offending child asked me, "Did Jesus really see what happened?" I said yes. She then confessed that it was her and we were able to pray and ask for forgiveness. It was priceless!!

    I also try to remind my kids how important the truth is in relationships. I remind them that I want to trust them just as I want them to be able to trust me. It is a process. Punishment for lying is also hard. I try to use natural consequences and if their lie affected someone in the family they have to make restitution by doing a chore for that person.

    Reply
  16. Jeannette
    March 23, 2011

    Another tactic that we use for "harmless" lies is to pretend to believe them, only when we're absolutely sure he is lying. For example, "I like the mushrooms." (The mushrooms that he is pushing around on his plate, saving for last.) So we say, "Oh really? well then I'm sure you want some more!" And give him a very generous second helping. He knows we don't believe him but he has to (literally) eat his words. This has really cut down on those sorts of lies.
    We also (as a positive) promise him that we will never lie to him, regardless of how much he lies to us. And we will never stop choosing to love him regardless of how much he lies.

    Reply
  17. Mary Beth
    March 23, 2011

    Ugh. Big issue with one of our kids. Started years ago when we moved to a new city and she discovered she could get attention for it. Still her habit in her early twenties.

    I pray nightly that she will be healed of this affliction, because it effects all of her relationships.

    We have learned now with the other kids to let them know that losing your integrity, losing others trust, is the worst thing you can lose. worse than any other privilege lost. I think when she was younger, we just thought she would outgrow it.

    Also learned to really watch our own "slips" ("tell them mommy's not here right now" when I don't want to talk to someone?).

    Reply
  18. dorothy
    March 23, 2011

    Life with my crew is interesting – especially as a family that previously had a zero tollerance rule for lying and now has to approach it from a totally different standpoint. We have learned that our childrens lying isn't personal. It isn't about me. It isn't about my kids wanting to hurt me. It's about their fear of being bad. Their inability to take the emotion of real life and the hard cold fact that broken impulse control may mean that they never (yeah I wrote that) never are able to stop no matter how I teach them or how hard they try. This applies to stealing for the same reasons……….

    Reply
  19. Karen Vandenberg
    March 23, 2011

    This could not have come at a more perfect time. Thank you to my new cyber-friend Donna for leading me here. We are in the middle of the same issue. My last post yesterday expressed my incredible pain and sadness with the lying that has begun in our little girl (home from China only 7 months – age 5). It feels so personal and I have been having a very difficult time. These suggestions have been so helpful. Looking forward to following. Feel free to check out my blog too: http://www.thevcrewblog.blogspot.com

    Reply
  20. shannon2818
    March 23, 2011

    Our daughter used to be terrible about this. She's improved, but I can't point to anything specific that we've done. I'd like to think it's just consistency on our part and that she's not as afraid as she used to be. I want to believe that she's beginning to understand that this is permanent and that we love her. My theory is that they lie because they're afraid.

    Reply
  21. Sara
    March 23, 2011

    We have not adopted (yet!), but I've been doing alot of reading in this area.
    New York Magazine ran this article a couple years ago summarizing the psychological research behind why children lie http://nymag.com/news/features/43893/ It is really interesting and informative and contains important advice like "if you see them do something, never ever say 'did you just…?"

    Also, Keck's 'Parenting the Hurt Child' has a section on lying that struck me as quite counter-intuitive but possibly helpful.

    Reply
  22. Scooping it Up
    March 24, 2011

    We have a promise: if you tell the truth there will be no yelling. My oldest will lie for all sorts of reasons, fear of getting into trouble, wanting to do something she knows she shouldn't (i.e. gets out a toy she is no supposed to not have and hides it in blankets of her bed and lies about it).

    There are consequences when she is blatantly disobeying, but sometimes when she tells the truth I have to grit my teeth and thank her and let things go. I try to pad it "you weren't supposed to have that toy, it was taken away because of xyz, so we need to put it back right now. I am SO proud of you for telling the truth. I am not mad. Lets talk about aways we can earn it back." The hope of getting it back helps diffuse her frustration, and she learns yet again it isn't so terrible to tell the truth.

    It's an ongoing issue for us.

    Reply
  23. angela
    March 24, 2011

    Our little Miss 7 year old lies, not to look good, not out of fear, as some moms mentioned their children do. No, our little Miss lies to get what she wants and to manipulate people. After a whole year of working with her she will admit after I call her on it. It takes confronting her and letting her know I don't believe lies. It took a long time to get to the point where she is. She still lies. But I do notices that she lies a lot less when she is happy and congenial. When she is in stand-off mode and in a control-freak binge she lie incessantly. She will not hesitate to lie to get what she wants.

    Her brother, on the other hand, lies usually because he just wants to give you the answer you want to hear. I have to be careful how I question him because he will answer one way and if I turn the question around he will be sure to give me an opposite answer… He just wants to tell me what he thinks I want to hear. It gets him into a real pickles sometimes. We talk about trust all the time, but so far we haven't made much of an impression. He's super sensitive to lying to get what he wants. His conscience bothers him so much he can't look me in the eye.

    Two kids. Twins in fact. SO different.

    Reply
  24. Emily
    March 26, 2011

    My nugget of wisdom came while reading aloud one of the Little House on the Prairie books. When Laura lied, her consequence was not being trustworthy. One of our four used to be a liar extraordinaire, and that concept really resonated with him. He WANTED to be trustworthy. In fact, I think the lying was somehow wrapped up in wanting to be trustworthy, or to be perceived that way. When he finally understood that we WANTED to trust him, but his lying undermined that, something clicked. The lying didn't go away automatically, but it didn't have the frantic "I must lie. Yes, I must." feel that it had before anymore. We reiterated that we wanted to trust him, and we knew he could be trustworthy. But that meant no lies. We also tried hard to value (even reward!) confessions–that was the hardest part for me, for sure! But acknowledging that to confess was difficult–even terrifying–for him seemed to help him know we were on his side. And over the past year, he has made huge strides. So thankful! Lying–I'm with Lisa–it drives me NUTS!!!

    Reply
  25. Scooping it Up
    March 31, 2011

    Lisa, this comment is unrelated to your post but I didn't know where to share it. For parents with kiddos who've come from hard places experiencing moderate to severe attachment, grief, PTSD issues and these issues are making school tricky, I wanted to share this post on getting kids the help they need from the school system. I read this on my friend's blog and wanted to circulate this! Excellent step by step resource! Hope this is ok. Love all the other input on this post.
    http://www.watchingthewaters.com/2011/02/504-and-

    Reply
  26. Cindy
    March 31, 2011

    When I think of lying In terms of Jesus and how he dealt with it, I'm a bit mystified. How could he stand being around Judas, whom was such a Big Fat Liar??? But he didn't seem bothered by His chosen disciple. And what about Peter, who lied like a rug….wasn't it three times in a row??, after being forwarned by the son of God, gulp!!! I guess it proves that I really need to have the heart of Christ in order to deal with the one who chooses to lie to me. I think why lying can drive me nutty, is because lying brings confusion, and that can really take me for a ride, if I let it. There is always a reason behind lying and the best thing to do is ask God to help them and you to find it, and pray "the Truth" into that area. Jesus is the Way, the Light and guess what?? "the Truth"…..

    Reply
  27. Amy Watson
    April 5, 2011

    Lisa Welchel has a book called Creative Corrections and she has a suggestion for kids who use ugly words (but could be applied to lying too): She suggests giving them a cup a having them go scoop up some toilet water with it. Explain that the toilet water is yucky just like lying is yucky. Then have them dump out the toilet water and fill the SAME cup with something sweet to drink like soda or juice. Ask them to take a sip of the drink. When they balk in disgust explain that the sweet drink is just like their truth telling; nobody is interested in it (or believes it) when it comes out of the same mouth that the yucky lies did.

    Might go over the heads of some kiddos, but could be effective with others and targets the heart of the child, which I like.

    Reply

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