Friday, June 5, 2009

My sister did it

"Pretty much all the honest truthtelling in the world is done by children."
Oliver Wendell Holmes

I thought that Pip was incapable of lying until a few days ago.  First came the baby-gate incident.  We're using the gate as a barrier to the stairway here at the beach-house, but it isn't attached to the wall.  My husband saw Pip shake the gate when Crazybaby was holding on to it, which made Crazybaby fall backward and bump her head.  Crazybaby started screaming, (I think she was more surprised than hurt,) and while Big Daddy-O comforted her, I held Pip, who was quietly sobbing.  "I think she feels badly," said my husband.

"What happened, Pip?" I asked.
"The gate shook," she cried.
"Did you shake it to get Crazybaby off?"
"No, the gate shook by it's own self."
"Pip, you must always tell Mama and Daddy the truth, no matter what happens.  Did you push the gate?"
"No mama."

Hmmm. What was our policy about lying?  Did Pip even know what lying was?  Had we ever discussed the concept of truth?  Later that day we had a talk.  "Pip, do you know what it means to tell the truth?"
"What, Mama?"
"It means that you tell us exactly how something happens.  You don't make up a story about it, you tell us what really happened.  It's called the truth.  When you make up a story that didn't really happen, then it's not true.  You can always tell us the truth about anything."
"Mama, I don't want to have these words anymore," my husband feels the same way when I launch into one of my, 'serious talks.'

I wasn't sure if she understood the concept of honesty, but the next day she provided me with yet another example of lying.  "Pip, did you move my book onto the floor?"  I wasn't at all angry, so she completely surprised me when she said,
"Crazybaby did it."
Crazybaby could not have gotten upstairs on her own, nor could she have retrieved my book from the middle of the king-sized bed.  I knew that Pip had been playing with it.  (Which begs the question, why did I even ask if she had done it?  But that's another blog post.)
"Pip, I just wanted to tell you that I'm borrowing the book from a friend and I have to take very good care of it, so I don't want you to play with it.  Now, please tell me the true story, did you move the book?"
"Yes, Mama, it was me.  I'm sorry Mama."
"You don't have to be sorry, Pip.  You didn't know that you weren't supposed to touch the book.  Thank you for telling me the truth though, Pip.  You made a very good choice," we fell into an easy hug.

Okay.  It was a positive outcome, but why was she so quick to blame her sister for something she did?  What was she trying to avoid?  Was she fearful of my response?  I try to be fair, not frightening.   I know that some kids are just more honest than others from my teaching days, and I want to raise a couple of honest ones!!!  

We give Pip a message every time she has a time-out, but she hasn't needed one in a long time, so I thought this was a good opportunity reinforce the same message.  "Pip, you know that Mommy and Daddy will always love you.  No matter what you do we will always love you.  We may not like the choices you make sometimes, but we always love YOU."

"I love you too, Mama."  I think she heard me,  but I won't be surprised if she experiments with the lying thing again.  I suppose all we can do is give her over-the-top, positive reinforcement when she tells the truth about things.  With any luck, this'll just be an experimental phase instead of a character trait.