Liar Liar Pants on Fire, Hang Them on a Telephone Wire. That’s a line I hear often. Oh, not directed at me (usually) but it’s something my kids learned and, well, it’s the truth. We all do it – everybody does it – because lies make life easier. Yes, everybody lies, and I’m betting no matter who you think of, they’ve probably told a few little white ones at the very least.
When it comes to kids, though, they can spin some whoppers. If they didn’t get their homework done, chances are the teacher is going to hear a carefully crafted tale to cover up the fact that they forgot. If they are late home from an outing, they’ll probably have a well-thought out (at least to them) reason for it. And as parents, we do it all the time. Think Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, the fact that too many video games will rot their brains. Most of the lies we tell are little (or big) white lies. They aren’t intended to hurt, but rather to ease the way. That last one, though, might backfire if your kids like zombies.
One of my boys gets his name on the board at school with great frequency. He doesn’t like it and sometimes he tells me that he didn’t get it on there even once. I usually know, though, because his teacher tells me. It’s made for some good learning discussions. I don’t get mad at him for having his name on the board because I know he’s trying and that he wants to be good. The problem is that most of those times its because he’s being silly. This past month both my boys were grounded from screens – no iPad, no TV, no computer, no nothing. The only time they got to enjoy them was watching movies as a family. During the last week of their grounding, I gave them the opportunity to earn back a little of their grounding time and one of the ways the younger one could do it was by not having his name on the board. I found it rather amazing that he instantly became the perfect student and would report that he didn’t get it up there even once.
Now, I’m a Mom and with that comes special super powers, one of which is my ability to get my kids to tell the truth. It’s actually pretty simple – I look at them and say “Truth?”. By looking right into their eyes, I somehow have this magic ability to make them cave. While I’m not holding out for it to work in the teen years, I’m loving it now. When I asked my younger son that question, he caved every time.
I love the little lies they make up to explain their actions. It takes a lot of creative thinking to come up with stuff like how kid A did something to kid B and then they got in trouble for it instead. It takes even more creative thinking to create a whole backstory about how things played out, complete with visual descriptions of what everything looked like. Since so much of it seems to be reflective of Minecraft, though, I can usually tell the reality from the story.
When someone asks you how you’re doing, do you ever tell them how your really feel, or do you say ‘fine’ and carry on? Do you tell someone you like the dress they are wearing (that they love) even if you don’t? Do you tell your kids everything will be alright, when you don’t really know what’s going to happen? These are all the little white lies we share to help other people’s lives be better. And it’s ok.
It’s important to remember that there can be an ugly side to it all, though. When kids tell lies about others with the intent to hurt feelings, that’s not ok. When they transfer blame consistently, it’s usually an indication that something is wrong. And the worst lies they tell are to themselves. Things like “I’m too fat, too thin, too ugly, too stupid, I’ll never be good enough”, those are the dark side of lies. And it happens.
It’s up to us as parents to help them dissect those lies and to give them the tools to move forward. Straight up talks, sharing our own stories, reminding them to be empathetic and even the opportunity to speak with a counselor or trusted person can help them to see the truth.
One way you can bring up the topic of lies is by watching a show where it happens. Seeing the results there, the impact that it has on others, can make a big difference. It opens the door to a good conversation. And that is always a positive thing.
In April, Netflix has some great titles on board so over the next month or so, be sure to catch a few of them. For the littles, there is Curious George – The Truth About George Burger and Clifford The Big Red Dog – The Kibble Crook. For the bigs there is Mean Girls (a great movie about kid problems) and iCarly – i Promise not to tell.
And if you have teens, there are some good shows for parents and teens alike – how about Liar Liar and Pretty Little Liars (you can’t get any more on topic than that!). The Netflix Original called Bloodline is all about a family with dark secrets – grab the older kids and make it a family show night. Enjoy a good show or movie and use that to springboard your discussion.
Have your kids told any great whoppers? If so, please share, I’d love to hear them.