“Your son will never lie to you. But do not believe a word he says.”
Let it sink in…
I had the same thoughts you have right now when my son’s therapist told me this. But you need some context. My son was seven at the time and what he told my therapist and me about some events did not seem believable. Later, she reminded me he was sharing his perceptions of events, and even though his words gave rise to concern, I should take them with a grain of salt.
He told me the truth, but his truth and reality may not completely align.
He had no motivation to deceive me, but his ability to understand and interpret the actions and words of adults confused him and his reality may not precisely reflect what was said and done.
Enough psychobabble. On to what you and I face every day.
Kids take words quite literally. It is all fun and games when we tell them the moon is made of cheese, but altogether different when the “parent” hat is on with serious matters to discuss.
I never want my son to question my intentions or actions. I want clarity and want him to feel comfortable asking for clarification if he does not understand.
That only comes when your home has a culture of truth. I am all for blaming the dog for a fart, but, again, on serious matters, our kids need us to be honest.
Some of the ways I foster a culture of honesty and truth are:
Saying “I don’t know” when I don’t know. We do not have all the answers and our kids need to know it. Whether we do not know the math equation to find the volume of a box or do not know why or how to explain the actions of our exes, we have the freedom to say “I don’t know.” We cannot stop there. We can empower our kids to explore and figure out math equations. We can also give our kids some insight to being a normal person who may not understand the actions or words of another – to rest in the tension that we will not always be able to figure out why friends and family do things. Why a best friend would say something hurtful. Why a sibling would lash out and call them names. We may not always know the answer, but we can control our response and reaction.
Invite clarification. Ask your kids to repeat to you what they think you said – especially when discussing difficult issues. Get yourself and teach them to seek clarity so communication becomes clear and confusion disappears. This discipline can help everyone at home, school, work, and life.
Affirm the value of their words. My son comes up with some pretty fantastical stuff. He saw a rattlesnake while hiking. He saw a Great White shark when kayaking in San Diego Bay. Someone stepped on his face with their cleat during flag football. Instead of deflating their stories we should engage, seek clarification, and help them navigate the awesome world of childhood imagination and play. We can gently push them toward truth and remind them of the story of the boy who cried wolf. But we can also let them be kids and remember their perceptions of reality may differ from ours depending on their age and development.
Be honest. This should go without saying. You and I have already discovered how closely our kids listen and how much they remember. If we deceive our kids, they will learn from us and do the same. I remember when my son just turned nine and he asked me about Santa like he had done in years past. But this time was different. His demeanor, his tone, and his eyes told me it was time to let him know the truth. He also asked me about his mom and my divorce. To this day, I tell him the truth – all he needs to know is that his mom and I love him and the divorce was not his fault. It does not answer the question he wants answered, but it is honest.
What is the most awesome/funny make believe story your kids have told?