Sunday, January 18, 2009

Liar liar pants on fire...

Our little Mr. Baseball has been experimenting with the truth lately--trying out different versions, seeing which he can get away with--and the QB and I aren't exactly sure what to do. He hasn't said or done anything really horrible, but he has on a number of occasions chosen to tell flat-out lies (as in "Yes Dad I put my clothes away and flushed the toilet," when he did neither, or "My teacher said I had to bring my gloves to school," when she never actually did or "I didn't do anything to Nolan" when, of course, he did. On top of that, he has begun "sneaking" things here and there.

So while I'm not really concerned about the lying turning into anything systemic or problematic in any long-term way, I am groping for a short-term solution the problem that will also serve as a reminder for him down the road. Tonight he lied about putting his clothes away presumably because he wanted to stay downstairs and start playing Legos rather than running all the way back upstairs to take care of his clothes. So it seemed like a fair consequence for lying about something in order to play with a particular toy would be to make that toy off limits for a while. But at the same time it seems like that ytpe of privilege withholding does not work very effectively with him. He just gets angry and then convinces himself he didn't want whatever we took away ("Fine!" he shouts. "I don't ever want to play Legos again anyway").

So the question is, how do you help a five-year-old learn that lying is not an appropriate way of communicating, even if it might help you avoid work, or avoid getting into trouble or avoid doing something you don't want to do?

Tonight, I tried reaching him through the medium he most appreciates--bed time stories. He almost always asks for some kind of super hero story (usually Batman or Spiderman) so I told him a Spiderman story straight out of the real Spider man story about Peter Parker lying to his uncle about going to the library and how his uncle was shot during a carjacking all because Peter Parker lied. It was a little morbid, but his eyes got really big and I wanted him to say something like "All that just because Spiderman lied?" but instead he just looked at me funny and I'm not sure he got the moral of the story at all.

That is another problem with trying to teach moral lessons to concrete thinking five-year-olds who just don't get metaphor, symbolism, or the nuances of allegory. How do you help a kid grasp a concept like honesty and truth when to them, the truth includes, among other things, the reality of Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy, and the deep and abiding friendship of a ratty stuffed animal named Doggy?

hmmmm...

9 comments:

TraciP said...

When we went through that stage as kids my Mom would sit us down and talk about pretend and real. How it was fun to pretend, what things are pretend..ect. By saying pretend versus lying it didn't put that negative stigma on it. Then when we'd say something that wasn't true, she would sit us down and say is that pretend or true? (And of course we'd have to look her in the eye). She'd always make sure we knew it was ok to pretend, as long as we knew the difference and would admit it.

Ma Fitz said...

All I have to say is that it's a good thing none of my children ever told lies, and neither do my grandkids (ha ha ha!) Works for me. :-)

Mike Fitzgerald said...

When you get the feeling that you are not hearing the truth, investigate. "Let's go upstairs so you can show me how you folded the clothes." Also, let him know in advance what the consequences of lying are, like taking away a favorite toy for a couple days. Then you can be a cool cucumber when the moment of truth arrives.

Alex said...

Good luck dude. I don't envy you and I don't look forward to those days. We are trying to figure out what to do with a one year old who is quite a pill himself (throwing food, hitting, grabbing, pushing, etc). PLEASE, let us know what works because I'm sure that we'll come up against the same thing.

Emily said...

Good advice! Let me know when you figure it out. We're headed in that direction sooner than later. :)

jake roi said...

Here are a couple of thoughts from someone who has been there once or twice.

1 - First, you're on the right track to follow the advice from these other folk - especially liked the trust but verify approach from the QB's dad.

2 - Though harsh and not necessarily ethical - in an opportune moment you may try a lie of your own (though this can be risky) such as: Of course I'll do such and such, or I did whatever or the like, and then don't. When it upsets him, have the talk about lies versus truth again.

3 - Be certain that you're not not inadvertently lying or not following through on commitments as this sends the tacit message that it's okay.

Best of luck.

cari said...

You have a wise father-in-law!

booboo said...

Not having kids of my own, you can definitely throw this suggestion out if you want, but lie back to him. If he asks you to have a cookie and you don't want him too, say "sure" and then don't do it. It will make him mad or sad but then you can talk to him about it and how he feels and tell him that is how you feel each time he doesn't tell the truth. Reverse psychology I say. When I have kids of my own I'm pretty sure I'm going to jack them up!! Hehehe!

TraciP said...

Hi! I set my blog to private and then got busy, so I'm just now getting around to adding people into it. It's only been two months...how sad. =) If you will send your email address to tracidove@gmail.com, I'll get you added in. Thanks!