When Children Stretch the Truth, Part 1: Lying to Friends

When Children Stretch the Truth, Part 1: Lying to Friends

Tess and Sally were happily playing with small dolls and a dollhouse. Pretend doctor visits, diaper changes and tiny invisible meals filled this happy time. Tess’ mother was folding clothes on a couch close by. After putting the dolls to bed, the girls talked quietly.

“Guess what, Tess?” Sally announced suddenly. “I’m getting a kitten this afternoon!”

Tess got very excited. “A kitten? Mommy, isn’t that great? Sally is getting a kitten!”

“Oh Sally, that will be fun! Where are you getting the kitten from?”

“Mmm…mmm… I think Canada. The kitten is gray and white and very fluffy.”

Then the dolls woke up needing hugs and kisses. “Let’s tell our babies about the kitten!” said Tess. “They will love it.” Sally seemed suddenly upset. “I am sick of talking about the kitten!” Tess was crestfallen. “You don’t even have it yet, so you can’t be sick of it. I can’t wait to hold it.”

Tess’ mother called the girls for lunch. “Mommy,” asked Tess, “Could we ever get a kitten?”

“Oh, dear, maybe someday. Let’s see how Sally does with hers.”

Sally looked down. The children nibbled their grilled cheeses in silence.

When Sally’s mother arrived, Tess’ mother said, “Mary, how exciting to be getting a kitten.”

“A kitten? Oh that’s impossible. Tom is allergic to cats. What made you think we might?” Sally ran out of the room. Tess stared at her mother. Soon Sally reappeared with a red face. “Sally, you know we can’t have a kitten because of Daddy. Your stuffed kitten from Nana will have to do, I’m afraid. It’s not right to make up stories that aren’t true. That is lying!”

Was this a real lie? What made Sally make it up? It is clear that Sally wanted a kitten so much that she fabricated that she was getting one. The cozy, happy time allowed her the luxury of feeling that anything was possible, even a kitten from Canada. Snowballing and embellishing the story is just what children do. They fall for their own fib and love it.

Each mother will need to have a gentle talk with her little girl. Sally’s fib is understandable, and her feelings have to be honored. Her mother will explain that making up stories only leads to embarrassment when the truth comes out. Tess will need a little explanation too, so she can understand what made Sally tell her kitten story. When Tess understands, the temptation to tease Sally will not appeal.

Both girls have the great fortune to have gentle and supportive mothers. Each girl will have a perfect opportunity to learn something about truth and friendship. Some fundamental aspects of this lesson will stay with them throughout their lives.

Written by: Anne Martine Cook, Managing Partner & Mom, with 35+ years experience teaching nursery school children.

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