February 7, 2013 7:36 pm When Children Stretch the Truth, Part 2: Lying to Parents
Twin sisters, Becky and Lulu loved their mother’s collection of demitasse cups almost as much as she did. Whenever a new one was added, they all helped to decide where to place it to make it look its best. The girls would often go to the cabinet and count the cups to be sure they were all still there.
The girls knew that two of the cups celebrated their birth. “Nana sent me two. The pink and white striped one and the yellow and white striped one. I love those cups the most.”
“Is one mine and one Lulu’s?” Becky asked.
“When you are older and you can be really careful, you will each get one. Let’s say when you are eight, in four years, we will have a little celebration and drink some cocoa out of them.”
Four years was beyond an eternity for the girls.
“If we are really careful with our plastic cups, maybe Mommy will let us use them sooner!” Becky hoped.
One day when her mother was on the phone, Lulu decided to practice drinking from the pink and white cup. She moved a stool close to the cabinet and opened the glass door. Holding her cup and smiling, she carefully climbed down. As she took a step to the table, the little cup shook, crashed to the floor, and shattered.
Their mother rushed in. “Oh, no! Lulu, what happened?”
Lulu said, “I didn’t do anything. There was a mouse in the cabinet. He pushed the cup on the floor.”
“Lulu, did you really see a mouse?”
“Yes! He made a mad face. I hate that he broke that cup.”
Starting to pick up the pieces, her mother said, “How about we make a deal? If you want to see the cups you ask me. But Lulu, you have to tell the truth. Right now I think you are lying about that mouse. I am more upset about that than about the cup!”
“I really didn’t see a mouse. I broke it. I just wanted to drink out of my cup,” sobbed Lulu.
“I’m glad you are telling the truth, Lulu,” said her mother. “And I hope you won’t touch the cups again!”
Many parents worry when their child tells a lie, especially the first time. They think that their child has started down a grim path that will lead to dishonesty and untrustworthiness. This mother was right to ask for the true story. She was also right to remain calm. Children usually lie because they feel their mother will be angry with the truth. Pleasing their mother is what they want to do. Lulu knew her mother would not like the broken cup, but now realizes she likes lying even less. By not being too angry or too punitive, Lulu’s mother encouraged her to admit what had really happened.
Sometimes what seems upsetting can actually deepen our understanding of one another.
Written by: Anne Martine Cook, Managing Partner & Mom, with 35+ years experience teaching nursery school children.
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