During a family vacation to Disney Land when I was 4, I spent a day in the ER getting a cast for a broken elbow. I had suggested that we try to fly off of a high shelf in our hotel room. But, when asked, I told my mom that I had slipped and fallen on my arm. I didn’t mention the flying at all.
When I was 5, I showed up at school on a dress-up day in a very elaborate clown costume. When the compliments started coming in, I told everyone who asked that my mother made the costume when, in fact, my mother had bought the costume.
My mom, of course, knew the truth about these things. She knew that I hadn’t accidentally slipped and she knew that my costume was store-bought. But she didn’t throw me under the bus by calling me out on my truth-stretches. She was comfortable with it, because she knew that kids are kids. And you know what kids do sometimes? They stretch the truth a little bit. And sometimes a little more than a little bit.
I am now the mom of three amazing kids, who occasionally stretch the truth themselves. Here are 7 ways kids will likely stretch the truth, and how to set the record straight.
1. “Everyone Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?”
“Everyone at school wears eye makeup! Everyone at school wears leggings as pants! Everyone at school orders $100 worth of Scholastic books every month! Everyone at school goes home at lunch!” Everyone. Hyperbole runs thick when a child wants something and he might be tempted to stretch the truth just a wee bit to get a parent to give in.
Set the record straight: Instead of using the “If everyone at school jumped off a bridge, would you do that too?” that my own mother threw my way once or twice, focus your attention on what’s true here. It doesn’t actually matter what everyone else is doing. In our family we don’t wear eye makeup in seventh grade and we can’t afford to order that many books every month. I like to use this conversation to come to some sort of compromise. Maybe you can wear eye makeup to synagogue. Maybe you can order one book from Scholastic. And so on.
2. The Blame Game
“She did it!”
“He did it!”
This, friends, is called passing the buck. No one wants to tell the truth about what happened, so the easiest thing to do is blame someone else.
Set the record straight: Remind your children that honesty is important. It may sound cliché, but when my kids are stuck in a he said/she said battle, I remind them that if they tell the truth, no one gets punished, but if they don’t tell the truth, they both get punished. This usually works. Make sure you praise them for telling the truth — kids need to know that you appreciate the honesty.
3. The Someone’s Going to Get Hurt Cover-up
“No, I wasn’t playing a rough game at recess. That’s 100 percent not how I broke my finger in three places!”
Set the record straight: Other than the obvious “I told you so,” at the hospital during the x-ray and casting process, it’s important to remind your kids that the reason you suggest that they play safely at recess is so they stay safe, not because you are mean mommy or bad daddy.
4. “Yes, I Brushed My Teeth!”
This fiblet could also be called the yes, I took a shower. Or yes, I brushed my hair. Or yes, I cleaned my room. Or yes, I finished my homework.
Set the record straight: It’s easy! Simply respond: Show me. You brushed your teeth? Let’s smell your breath. You did your homework? Show it to me. You cleaned your room? Let’s see! It’s easy to catch them in a fiblet, and it’s super easy to send them back to actually do it this time.
5. The Ego Stroke
“Mom, this is the best lasagna in the world!”
“Dad, you are really good at guitar!”
“Mom, you are such a great dancer!”
These are when your kids want to make you feel good. I’m going to be honest here, I know my kids are stretching the heck out of the truth when they praise the things I am less-than-stellar (read: horrible) at.
Set the record straight: Continue to let them falsely praise you because it’s good for the self-esteem.
6. The Storyteller
“Mom! Today a magician came to school and made my teacher disappear so now I don’t have any reading homework tonight!”
Set the record straight: Laugh. Send them to do the homework. There’s nothing else to do, other than give your kids the tools to become A+ bloggers.
7. The Peggy Ann McKay
“I can’t possibly go to school today: My throat hurts. My head hurts. I bumped my leg. My stomach feels funny. Everything in spinning. Do you think I have a fever? My jaw is weird. ARE THOSE SPOTS ON MY ARM?!”
My kids often claim to be sick, even though I am fully aware that there are no fevers or sore throats or spots of any kind. This used to annoy me, but now I realize that there’s a reason they don’t want to go to school. Is there a test they are nervous about? Is there a social issue that’s becoming a problem? My daughter once faked sick because she lost the key to her locker and was nervous to tell me.
Set the record straight: Ask the right questions. Find out why they they’d rather take medicine than go to school.
(Note: I have been wrong before. My mom-dar occasionally messes the fake-sick up and then I end up having to clean the sick…up.)
Most of the time I remember that kids sometimes stretch the truth. Like my mom, I’m comfortable with it. I know that with the right tools to combat their little white fiblets, my children likely won’t turn into tiny Pinocchios.
More Mom Truths:
- Jaw Dropping Things New Moms Share in Their Baby Groups
- The Shocking Things Your Lactation Consultant Will Do to Help You Learn to Breastfeed
- What the Words You Use All the Time Really Mean: A Thesaurus for Moms