Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lying vs. Pretending

Before I even begin trying to explain my thoughts on this issue, let me just start with the facts:

1. I don't have all the answers. (Duh!)
2. It's none of my business (in other words, it is not for me to judge) what other parents do or not do with their children in regard to this (or any other topic).
3. You may be utterly confused by the end of this, or any other post I have written.
4. My clothes do not match today.

Lying is obviously a serious no-no and Seth and I have tried to be very clear and strict in our intolerance of it with our children. Our approach has always been that lying in itself is far worse than whatever misdeed the child is trying to conceal.

Pretty cut and dry. Black and white.

Well.... yesterday, my girls were perched by the living room window, watching for their Nana to arrive for dinner. In their excitement, they had set up their surveillance very prematurely and had a good half hour to wait and watch for Nana. As I went about cooking dinner and picking up around the house, I would hear one of them gleefully announce that Nana had arrived. Hmm. She's early. And I came to the door to unlock it. But my Mom wasn't there. And the girls looked up at me with mischievous happy expressions.

"Is Nana here or not?" I asked.

"I was just joking."

Hmmmm. I'm not sure I like this "joke". I asked if they were lying. "No... just being tricky". Well, I for sure don't like "tricky". So, I said "You may pretend but when I ask, I would like the real answer". So for the next 20 minutes, "Nana's here!" was exclaimed while the other cheered, then they both laughed and the other took their turn with the false advertisement.

This is what poor kids do for entertainment. ;)

I was not, and am not, completely satisfied with my response. But I made a point to mention it to Seth and asked him what he thought. We both agree that malicious lying is always met with punishment. But we also agree that we like the girls to pretend and use their imaginations. So here is my question, which I hope others can add input to, provided it's done in a polite way:

How do you distinguish the line between children pretending vs. lying?

I'm imagining some have a scowl on their face by now because they think we're being too petty. But maybe to some, we're far too lenient. But although I would like to hear from friends on what has worked for them, the bottom line is that I want please God, and be careful in this responsibility of child rearing. This same logic is what has formed our family's stance on Santa. We don't tell our girls that he is real or brings them their presents, because this feels like lying to us. Neither do we cover their eyes every time we walk by him in the mall in December and chant "Santa is Satan with the letters mixed around!" We just see him as a fun, make believe character like Charlie Brown or the Easter Bunny. They can watch Christmas movies with Santa or have a chocolate Santa in their stocking. We're just not going to try to convince them he is real. I think Eden may think he is, but finally, at 3 yrs. old, Maddie demanded to know one way or the other: what's the deal on this Santa guy and why does the one on TV look different than the one at the mall? So we told her: he's just a fun character lots of people dress up as.

Though Santa is just an example I'm  using to demonstrate pretending vs. lying, even growing up in a home that wasn't exactly Christain, I don't remember ever really believing in Santa. Presents said "From Santa" on on the tags but Santa's writing looked remarkably like my mom's, and you bet your biscuits we thanked Mom and Dad, not Santa. And there is a horrible but true story of me, as an 8 yr. old girl, sitting an adamant Santa believing friend down one day and letting him know it was all a fraud. The reindeer, the red suit, the half eaten cookies and half drunken milk... all an elaborate scam. He was literally devastated. I've never seen an 8 yr. old boy cry harder. Even ones with broken arms did not wail as this poor kid did. And (how sick was I), I remember feeling like I had done him a great service in bursting his bubble now and sparing him to pain of finding out as a middle aged man. Yes, I was a cynical kid in every way.

But if Santa is "real" at your house or not, no biggie to me. I know lots of good folk who have a grand family time with Santa at the center. And if you make delicious Santa shaped treats, you may share with me and I will gladly eat them. I'd like one right now, in fact.

The real point, which somehow I have completely deviated from, is making a clear distinction with children about pretend play and being deceitful. How does one do that? I'm definitely nixing the "tricky" or "sneaky" stuff. But imaginative play of the non-sneaky/non-tricky nature seems like a good thing to me.

For the time being, we continue to just say "Stop pretending and give me the correct answer" when we want the girls to return to reality for a moment. Maybe that will be sufficient. I just thought Hmmm... maybe some other moms have experience with this and wanted to open up the (hopefully gracious) conversation.



kauffeegrl said...

LOL Katye your posts always make me laugh. I love how you diffuse a situation with your humor, and I struggle with the same concept with our son. We're not at the lying/pretending stage yet, but the idea behind your post definitely rings a bell with me. Where do you draw the line, so to speak? Rearing a child truly requires begging God for wisdom, doesn't it? I don't have advice for you since I'm still a "newbie" parent myself, but I just wanted to let you know I can sympathize and you're not alone. :-)

Mrs. Reverend Doctor said...

We have done the same with Santa, last year it caused a lot of preblems at Matthew's Baptist preschool, because of course when he was mentioned Matthew would say he wasn't real,amazed me what huge lies some parents fed their kids.

Christina said...

Loved your post, Kayte! You have such a fun, fresh look on parenting! I feel exactly the way you do about Christmas and Santa. As far as the situation you mentioned, I feel like you handled it correctly. We love to play and have fun at our house, and my husband especially loves to tease the kids, but it is always obvious that he is teasing. Your girls obviously knew each other were teasing about Nana's arrival and no one was being "had," but you were right to request the truth. I guess that each situation needs to be evaluated each time. Not always easy for someone like me who likes everything black and white. :) It seems like EVERY rule at times, needs to be modified, for one reason or another.

Tim and Karla said...

Hmmm... just my quick two cents worth...

When we're in training mode, we train/correct but don't punish/discipline. When the need for punishment arises, we always try to consider the spirit of our children and the spirit in which the misdeed was committed. I honestly don't think there is a cut and dry "fix it" answer for anything (as it pertains to child-rearing). Not only is every child different, but each situation is different. And while I don't necessarily believe in situation ethics, I do believe that we must always consider the context of the situation we are handling.
BTW....LOVE the Ezzos series on child-rearing. Yes, they wrote Babywise, but I more enjoy the Preparation for Parenting and Growing Kids God's Way Series as they are more Christian based as opposed to just moral-based.

Disclaimer: I do NOT have the answers and my children (and I, for that matter)are FAR from perfect!!
The End.

Bethany said...

Pretend play is a Really Big deal in our house, because before Trav started therapy in February this year, he didn't pretend play. This was a very big deal, as no pretend play is a flag for autism. Now, after several months of therapy, he has limited pretend play - basically if he will mimic other's actions or scenarios but doesn't come up with any on his own.

That said, to me pretending is different from lying. Lying is hiding the truth, pretending is playing, making up stuff that isn't real. And that, for me, is where the distinction lies - real or fake?

Making up fantasy stories, playing dress up, even doing "Santa" stuff is pretending to me, and OK. But asking a question, like you did, and getting an answer other than the truth is lying.

I don't know how to deal with it because neither kid is talking enough to make sense most of the time, let alone tell me a story. But I know I'm headed there soon, and am interested to see what other, more experienced moms, have to say.

Joyful Blessings said...

Kayte you have such a great parental spirit and lots of wisdom for your age, I doubt if anyone could do better at your take on this subject. I love reading your posts.