I've had a few problems with lying at my house lately. For the most part Frances and Henry understand what flat out lying is. And they know they shouldn't do it. That doesn't mean they don't try it, but when they get caught and punished, they know right away that they deserve it. I'm leaving Benjamin out of this because three year olds still have a hard time differentiating between fantasy and reality and sometimes they don't really mean to lie, they just don't know what the truth is.
There are two other types of lying that the kids and I have talked about that have been a problem. The first is called "wordsmithing." Technically a wordsmith is someone who is skilled at putting words together. However, people also use the word to describe someone who uses words that are technically correct, but not truthful. For example: Henry is crying on the floor, while Frances is sitting on the couch. "I didn't push him off the couch!" she exclaims! and technically she's right. She didn't push him off the couch; she kicked him. What she said is true, but it doesn't properly address the situation.
|Not my kids|
The other problem we have had is lying by omission. The time between dinner and bedtime can get pretty chaotic at our house. People trying to finish up one day and get ready for the next causes a bit of confusion on a regular nightly basis. One night, we had promised Frances and Henry a cookie after dinner. I went to run some laundry while Ken was putting food away. When I came back up the kids were in their room getting clothes out for the next day. I saw that they were following directions and remembered the cookies. As I went to the kitchen to get the cookies, I passed Ken going into our room to fold some laundry. I brought the cookies back and handed them to the kids, who didn't say anything, but eagerly started eating. Ken walked out of the bedroom and said to me, "Did you just give them cookies? I already gave them some." Uh-oh! We had a conversation about lying at that point. I explained that they had lied even though they hadn't said anything. Actually, they had lied because they hadn't said anything. The right thing to do would have been to refuse the cookies and explain that they had already had some.
There was no real punishment that night other than a lecture and the stern look of disappointment I gave the two of them. Sometimes I wonder if I was too harsh with that. But I see so many people in the public eye: politicians, lawyers, criminals, etc. who use these types of lies without thinking twice. Or maybe they do think-they think about how exactly they can word something or "forget" something to not be caught in a direct lie. The words coming out of their mouths (or not, in some cases) are technically not false; but they do not convey the actual truth. It's a very fine line and I want my kids to know where that line is from a very early age.
So where does that put white lies or teasing? It's a hard question and I'm not sure I have the answer. But I hope that my children will grow up to be discerning of others and what they hear from others and about others. I want there to be no doubt about the integrity of their words and actions. And when's a better time to start than now?