I was caught off guard when Kate’s teacher informed me that she had told a lie. I have to admit that in my earlier years of parenting, when faced with such an awkward situation, I would have either fumbled for a reply, made some excuses or doubted the teacher. My kid? No way! There must have been some mistake.
Instead, I remained calm and wanted to know the whole story so that I could figure out how to deal with it. This was how it went.
Kate had taken a new activity to play with, and her Chinese teacher asked if she had been taught how to work with it. Kate immediately replied, “Yes.” Her Chinese teacher knew it was not the case and asked who had demonstrated it to her. Kate responded, “Ms Sha”, without batting an eyelid. Ms Sha overheard the conversation and walked over. Kate knew her lie had been exposed and looked down, afraid to look into Ms Sha’s eyes. Her teachers took the opportunity to teach her that lying is wrong.
The thing was, we were shocked that a 2.5 year old knows how to lie so blatantly!
On the way home, I reiterated that it was wrong of her to lie. However, I knew deep down in my heart that the problem lies with us, not her. After all, little kids imitate and absorb what they see and hear.
At dinner, I told the rest of the family what had transpired that day. The kids were old enough to point out that “adults also tell white lies, even you and daddy, so that must have been where she picked it up from”. They recounted many instances where the truth was not spoken.
- You always say, “Everyone is going”. (to a child, everyone would literally mean every single person. Ok, I’d better wipe that one off my list of constantly used words.)
- Dad tells whoever we are meeting that “We are almost there” when we had just left the house. I heard Uncle T say that last week too.
- Aunt J always promise us that she’s coming to visit soon. But she never does.
- You said you’ll be back in 15 minutes. You lied.
- Kate spotted the Crocs shoes her cousin passed down to her and wanted to wear it. As we were going to the mall (we try not to allow Kate to wear Crocs on escalators), our helper said, “Cannot”. Kate persisted. “I want”. She quickly replied, “Cannot. Got lizard poo poo.” Kate said “Where? Let me see.” (of course, there was none.)
- The girls were eating sweets and when Kate asked for some, they replied, “No more.”
- I went home and found #5 quietly giving Kate his snacks (which are too salty for her) and when I boomed, “Why are you giving her the pretzels?”, he said, “Just a few.”. I’m sure she had way more than a few.
- There were countless instances where words came out of my mouth before I realised they were not the absolute truth.
I noticed a pattern here. We instinctively try to shade the truth to avoid her whining or crying, so that we don’t have to deal with it. Unknowingly, we taught her to lie.
It’s not about her.
It’s about us.
It’s about me.
So. Where do I go from here?
I’ve decided that I’ll start focusing on improving one parenting skill at a time until I conquer it. Then I’ll work on the next one.
Here’s the first:
SPEAK THE TRUTH.
Anyone joining me?
Here are some good tips on how to help your child deal with lying, over at Life’s Tiny Miracles blog.