Dishonesty. It's such a funny thing.
To me, lying is not such a black-and-white issue. There are a lot of grey areas hidden all over. I blame Miss Manners for that one! Have you ever eaten something that someone has made especially for you and it just tastes HORRIBLE? Do you tell them that? Do you try to be polite and say you like it, all the while eating as little as possible or pretending not to be hungry?
Face it: Sometimes we just tell people what we think they want to hear.
Kids seem to pick up on this skill pretty early on. When they begin lying, they are really just telling you what they think is the 'right' answer. They haven't necessarily picked up on the art of deception just yet, they just know that it makes their mom or dad happy to hear that they finished their dinner or picked up their toys. They have figured out that the answer brings praise, only it hasn't occured to them that the action needs to fit the answer or the praise will turn to punishment.
Did that make any sense at all?
This brings me to last night's conversation with 4YO. (Yes, she has turned FOUR now since my last entry.) She and her sister were eating burritos. 6YO finished hers, like always. 4YO began asking for an orange. I asked her if she finished her burrito. Her answer was, "Yes." She than dug herself into a hole when she said, "I'm full with the burrito." That always means that she DIDN'T, in fact, finish the burrito. She just didn't want anymore and wanted to move onto something else. While I'm not one to force children to eat when they are not hungry, I'm doing my best not to let half my pantry get tossed in the garbage out of sheer disinterest.
I explained to her that, if she still had room for an orange, then she must still have a bit of room to finish that burrito first. She looked as if she was getting my point and went back to the table. However, the next thing I heard was the slap of the trash can lid and the the clomp of her plate being dropped into the sink. She then came back to me and told me her burrito was finished and asked if she could have an orange now.
"Did you eat the whole burrito?"
After a moment of hesitation, she said, "Yeah."
I then looked her straight in the eyes and said, "Really? You ate the WHOLE THING?"
"I ate the last bite. Then I threw the rest away."
"If you had any left to throw away, then you certainly didn't eat the last bite. Now, did YOU finish your burrito?" This whole time I'm starting straight into her eyes and she's starting to look more and more uncomfortable. I just had to hear her give me a straight answer, truth or not. We would deal with that answer when I got one.
After a few more moments of a staredown, I could practically hear the gears turning in her head as she came up with the 'right' answer to this one, she gave me an answer.
"No. I didn't eat the whole thing."
It was like something was 'clicking' in her mind...if that makes any sense. My normally argumentative child was calm and seemed to completely understand what I was getting at. I told her she couldn't have an orange and that she was done eating for the rest of the night. (It was 7:30 at night...so don't go calling Child Protective Services on me or anything!) For the first time, there was no dispute from her. She accepted my answer and went to sit on the couch for a few minutes before it was time for bed.
I was just so proud of how calm we BOTH stayed for a change. I know it won't always be like this, but I really feel like it's a milestone for 4YO. She's becoming a reasonable human being. Oh, I figured it would probably happen eventually, but had my doubts many days just the same.
After she walked away, 6YO came up to me and said, "Mom, I know how you knew she was lying."
This had my curiosity. I couldn't wait to hear what SHE had taken away from my conversation with her sister.
"When you asked her the question, she took too long to answer you. It was like it took her time to think of the answer. If it was true, she just would of known the answer and said it."
6YO=Future Interrogator of Something Big and Important
I just hope she uses her powers for GOOD and not EVIL!
I really do think honesty is important. But so are good manners, so that's where the whole thing gets kind of fuzzy. For example, anyone who knows me well knows that they should probably lie to me about what time I need to be somewhere. I don't mind this at all. In fact, I rather appreciate it! I am late for most things. It's usually within a few minutes of the time I'm supposed to be there, but I just can't seem to get it right. In fact, even the rare times I'm on time or even early for something, something always happens. Car problems, traffic jams, lost keys...that's when I tell myself that I wasn't meant to be punctual and try to assure myself that there is still a place in this world for me.
In fact, most of the punctual people I know want to get where they are going so they can do what they need to do and leave quickly. While I'm not the first to show up anywhere, I don't mind staying later most places. There's gotta be room in this world for all of us, right?
If you've met my mom, you know that this MUST be a genetic trait, but it's hard to blame her when it's MY KID that can't find her other black shoe!
So, if you want me to be somewhere at a certain time, just go ahead and 'tweak' the time a bit. Trust me...you won't be sorry and I won't be the least bit angry if I find out the truth. I think it's the combination of my optimistic side with the part of me that procrastinates constantly. Whatever it is, I'm defective but my parents didn't save their receipt! Trust me...they've looked for it!
It's just funny how I'm trying to instill honesty in my kids while still telling little white lies all over the place. I think that if we didn't tell those little while lies, then we would all walk around talking to people like Sheldon from 'The Big Bang Theory.' While I love him on the show, I would probably avoid someone like that in real life!
So, I'll punish my children for lying, but I'll still lie to them when they do their own hair and it looks horrible, yet they look so proud. And I hope that they will lie to their children the same way.