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Is 'Lying through your teeth' an inappropriate or offensive idiomatic phrase?

Discussion in 'Primary' started by lightningconductor, Mar 28, 2012.

  1. lightningconductor

    lightningconductor New commenter

    A few days ago, while attempting to resolve a dispute between two children, I reminded one that she had lied to cover her tracks on a previous occasion and had therefore lost a degree of credibility. Apparently, though I don't remember exactly what I said, I used the expression, 'You lied through your teeth' to this child (who is 9 by the way). To me, this is just an idiom: it has no more significance or strength than any other phrase. Unfortunately, however, I now find myself at the beginning of a disciplinary procedure because of it: the child's father has complained to the Head and wants to take the complaint to a 'higher' authority.
    What do you think? Is the phrase 'to lie through your teeth' so offensive as to justify disciplinary proceedings or am I the victim of an over-sensitive parent being too demanding?
  2. While it's not a phrase i would use to a child or anyone else for that matter - not thier face at any rate - i wouldn't consider it to be serious enough for a formal comlaint.
    Parents and children are getting more and more power crazy and it is undermining the educaiton system in my view.
    Good luck
  3. minnieminx

    minnieminx New commenter

    I think context, tone, etc is everything.
    It definitely isn't an expression I would use as part of a serious talking to or telling off, but nor would I complain if another member of staff did.

    I wouldn't be too impressed if it was said to my own child and would probably complain to the HT, but then leave them to deal with it. I don't think it is serious enough for any sort of formal disciplinary proceeding, though I'm not sure my HT would be pleased.

    What is your Ht's take on it?
  4. AlwaysAdaptable

    AlwaysAdaptable New commenter

    It is an offensive idiom. Even as an adult I find it offensive. Your head is taking it too far, IMO I don't think it needs to go to disciplinary proceedings.Parent being too demanding and the Head wants to keep them happy. I would contact the regional union. Cover your self. Next time be careful what you say to the children.
  5. Blimey!
    I haven't used this particular expression with the children I teach, but certainly wouldn't think it offensive, providing of course, it was true! The child has clearly and blatently lied on a previous occasion. They did in fact, 'lie through their teeth'. It is an idiom in common usage and in my view would only be offensive if it were untrue!
    I would have no problem with a teacher using it towards my child, and have used it with my own *** at home, when I know they have behaved in exactly that way.
    I think some teachers have become very concerned about what parents think. I can't blame them for that, but think it's a shame when a child, who has behaved badly, cannot be told so in very clear terms. It's also a measure of a particularly over-sensitive parent (who perhaps feels judged by their child's unpleasant behaviour) who needs to 'man-up' - oh dear...more plain speaking!
    Contact your union.

  6. Sorry Missgollumeyes - I didn't mean to quote you!
    Apparently, I can't use the word 'b*ggers!
  7. lightningconductor

    lightningconductor New commenter

    Thank you to everyone who responded to my question and appraised me of their views. I may not agree with them but that's not the point.
    I personally don't find it offensive. I would not be bothered if a teacher used it to my child (providing it wasn't a false statement). I think some people have become over-sensitive to harmless, largely meaningless cliches such as this. Maybe it's a part of our ever-growing political correctness'.
    Milliebear and I seem to be in a minority, though, judging by the responses so far.
    Maybe I should ask Jeremy Clarkson for his views... I suspect he wouldn't find it offensive!
  8. AlwaysAdaptable

    AlwaysAdaptable New commenter

    You might not find it offensive, but some others would. The very fact that the idiom contains the verb 'lying' can be accusatory. I know and you know that the parent is making a mountain out of a molehill. Please learn to play the game.
  9. I'm not sure why it would be considered offensive to be honest. If I saw a child do something deliberately and then lie blatantly about it surely that is a child lying through their teeth? I don't see it as any more offensive than telling the child you know they are lying (if you were 100% sure they were). To me it is the same thing. I do tell a child if I know they are lying because I saw them do it. If I said they were blantantly lying would this be offensive too? I don't get where the offensive part is. I can quite understand if you said 'you are a lying toerag' or something as you are insulting the child, not referring to their actions, but can't see what part of the phrase you mentioned is the offensive part. I can't imagine why anyone would refer it to their head for making a statement that is true.
  10. WolfPaul

    WolfPaul Occasional commenter

    The fact that some people may find it offensive does not make it a disciplinary matter.
    Are you saying that children should not be challenged if they lie? Is being "accusatory" by defenition wrong? Ye gods, what a mess we are in. It's not pretty, and it's unsurprising that many children appear to have difficulty in understanding the difference between right and wrong, when any attempt by teachers to establish this is undermined by other adults who appear to think that preventing the child from experiencing anything negative is the same as acting in their interests.
  11. Am I missing something? Does it mean anything other than to tell lies with your mouth? I wouldn't blink if I had a kid and their teacher had said this to them. Ehhhh, bad luck on this one. Some parents act like we're their blinking gas suppliers or something. Mary Portas has a lot to answer for! Hope it works out okay x
  12. AlwaysAdaptable

    AlwaysAdaptable New commenter

    I only said some people might find it offensive. I did not say it makes it a disciplinary matter.

    Children should be challenged, but how how is the question. I certainly wouldn't use negative idioms unless they have had a lesson dealing with figurative language.

  13. harsh-but-fair

    harsh-but-fair Star commenter

  14. nick909

    nick909 Star commenter

  15. So what would you have said in the OP's situation, when faced with a child who you KNOW to have lied and who is continuing to lie? How would you avoid using a 'negative idiom' in those circumstances? Lying is a strong word, but sometimes, we need to make children realise jsut how serious their behaviour is.
  16. nick909

    nick909 Star commenter

    The point is that it's the PARENT who's made the complaint and not the child. Whether figurative language has been used or not is therefore irrelevant.
    The same parent wouldn't complain if the child had heard an idiom used in a positive context such as "I'm over the moon to see what lovely work you've done" or similar.
    It's clear that the parent has their back up over their child being accused of lying. Increasing evidence of many parents refusing to support the school when dealing with children's behaviour.
    What an appalling situation that the school is bowing down to parental pressure over something as trivial as this. How have we ended up in this ridiculous state?
    I hate the expression 'PC gone mad' but it applies here.

    (Although I ought to add that the word 'mad' isn't intended as a synonym for 'mentally ill', just in case I've offended anyone.)

  17. AlwaysAdaptable

    AlwaysAdaptable New commenter

    Without wanting to be identified, a year a go I got into so much trouble over something very innocent I said to a child. My life became unbearable. Yes I agree it is political correctness gone mad. The child who was responsible continued to lie and my hands were tied.
  18. roise

    roise New commenter

    You have my whole hearted sympathy. This type of parent makes working as a teacher frustrating and disheartening. I cannot see why saying that a child 'lied through their teeth", is any more offensive than just saying that they lied. If they had lied repeatedly before and this had been proven then I think it would be be relevant to mention it in a conversation where she was disputing another child's account. I think you have the right to know exactly what the complaint that is being made against you consists of. Is it the expression that he is objecting to, and if so why, or the fact that his child was simply called a liar? If the school is not supporting you fully then contact your union. It is time that schools really stood up to these sorts of parents and their complaints were dealt with in a way that makes them understand that they are an abuse of system that is intended to protect children not a chance for them to throw a tantrum over any one who attempts to get their children to behave. If someone said it to my one of my children I would expect my child to explain to me why they are telling lies at school.
  19. Once upon a time I would possibly have used such an idiom. However, finally in my extreme old age I am sometimes able to deal with these tricky situations with more detachment. ( not always though!) I think your inadvertent choice of what you considered to be an innocuous idiom has made a difficult situation more emotionally charged and has given the parent a way in.
    Had you asked the child if there had been any occasions in the past when she had found it difficult to remember events clearly, or if her account of what had happened had been very different from other people's, it might have been a more factual way to highlight her inability to tell the truth. Using a phrase that she may not have understood has complicated things.
    In the age in which we live, sadly many parents will defend their child's actions at all costs, as a reflex action. Were the parent simply to have been presented with the facts they may have found it more palatable to swallow and more ready to accept their child's part in what took place.
    I would gently suggest that you might have been better taking a more factual approach to your questioning. I think it is often helpful to check your interpretation with the child as you go along and to ask if you have understood fully and accurately.
    I wonder if a letter from the Head, explaining that whilst your intention was to sort out a difficult situation, you now realise that your language choices may inadvertently have made the situation more difficult. It will be difficult to offer an apology but I think that it will probably be the best way to prevent matters getting unnecessarily complicated.
    Good luck.
  20. Unbelievable!

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