Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Blaming ceiling fans

Yesterday, Will rocked our living room rocking chair right to the floor. After a crash and a scream, I came running to find the rocker tipped over and Will spilled onto the floor, holding his head. As I asked Will what had happened – had he stood up in the chair, had he rocked so vigorously that the chair had flipped over? – he denied all likely scenarios, insisting instead that he had been rocking “very slowly” and the ceiling fan had blown the chair over.

Finally I stopped trying to suggest his “truth” wasn’t plausible and we talked together about how in the future he would be less likely to fall out of the chair if he didn’t rock too fast and never stood up in the chair – all lessons he accepted willingly as long as I wasn’t trying to assert that he’d committed one of these blunders in this instance.

Then today, when I asked Will not to climb into our two-compartment laundry hamper (I’m afraid the thing’s going to bust at the seams when he squeezes into one side), he looked at me with a grin from his cozy hamper nest and said, “I didn’t climb in. This shirt pulled me in.”

It’s hard not to smile at his inventive little lies. We try to model honesty for Will by always telling him the truth ourselves and by not punishing him for his transgressions when he admits to them. But he is quite frequently emitting bald-faced lies, many of them fun and fantastical, and a few of them aimed at denying devilish or stupid behaviors. This is, of course, where he’s at developmentally, so I don’t hammer him with long lectures about honesty but I do find myself wondering just how to respond when he starts blaming ceiling fans and dirty laundry and imaginary friends.

Here are a few tips on teaching honesty (bearing in mind that many experts agree that kids don’t understand the difference between truth and lies until at least 4 or 5).

When did your kids start sticking to the truth -- or are you still with us in fantasty land?

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