While everyone in my family loves a good story, there’s a time and place for it. The problem is that we have a “tall-tale teller” in our house, and it’s not always entertaining.
A few weeks ago, my six-year-old was telling us about his friend Nick. Nick had gotten in trouble for acting out in school, jumping up out of his seat when the teacher had asked him to stay put. Then he “said a bad word” to the teacher, telling her to shut up. Needless to say, Nick was sent to the principal’s office with some hefty punishment doled out, and his parents were even called into the school.
I was shocked by Nick’s behavior, and also confused – hadn’t I just run into Nick and his mom in the after-school pickup line as if everything was okay? Did he come back to class after his trip to the office?
“No,” said my son after several minutes of Q&A. “I was just kidding. Nick didn’t get in trouble today.”
What? How did he make up such a convincing story with all those realistic details? And, better yet, why?
Kids lie for a number of reasons, say the experts. Fear, or self preservation to avoid unpleasant tasks or getting in trouble – a survival technique – or to impress people and gain approval, even if it’s of the negative variety.
I had an idea that our young storyteller was just looking for a little attention. Sometimes being the second kid in the family to go through first grade just isn’t that exciting on its own, and a little embellishment can attract some notice.
So, we’re dealing with our teller of tales by giving him the attention he’s looking for, but not for his fantastic stories. In fact, we ignore the stories altogether after asking whether the tale is a truthful one. We’ve spoken about lying and the problems it can cause, and are now leaving it alone. But we do give very special recognition for in-class accomplishments, especially those that are new for our family, and for positive, respectful behavior.
We haven’t heard any new stories lately, and have even been treated to the ugly truth once in a while.
“Aren’t you glad I told the truth, Mom?”
Actually, I am.