096: Seeing lies from a child’s eyes

The following blog post is written by guest blogger and Tell Our Children board member Caroline, the mother of one, a four-year-old girl.

The virtual TELL Gathering going on right now on the Show & TELL blog has really gotten me thinking about how children of all ages, but specifically preschoolers, perceive truths and lies. (Click here to read past posts in this series about lying.) In last Friday’s post, a teacher shared what her teenage students thought about what she perceived as a blatant lie. To the teacher, the child’s claim that he had washed his hair even though he had not was a lie. She sees it in black and white. Her students did not see it that way; to them, the situation was a bit more gray.

truth or lie

I find it fascinating that two different groups of people can perceive the same situation in two totally different ways. It made me think about how different my 4-year-old daughter probably perceives things as opposed to how I see them. After all, she only has four years of experience; I have 30.

For example, the other day I asked her to take her dirty clothes out of the bathroom and put them in her hamper, which is inside the closet in her bedroom. When she came back into the bathroom, I asked her, “Did you put your clothes in the hamper?”

“Yes!” she said, so emphatically and proud of herself that I believed her and didn’t follow up to see if she actually had.

It wasn’t until several hours later that I noticed she had just put her clothes on her bedroom floor right outside the closet door. So, thinking she had lied to me to just get out of doing extra work, I went to her and asked, “Did you put your dirty clothes in the hamper like I asked you to?”

She just looked up at me with an innocent, somewhat confused look on her face and asked, “What’s a hamper?”

I had to laugh! I realized she hadn’t lied to me about what she did, because she didn’t have a clear understanding of what she was supposed to do in the first place. In her mind, I asked her to do something with her clothes, so she did the best she could. When I asked her if she did, in her mind, she had done SOMETHING; she just didn’t know exactly what it was I was asking her to do.

As soon as I told her that a hamper was the laundry basket, she said, “Oooh! That’s what a hamper is!” And then we went and followed through on the task together.

It was a simple moment, but the simplicity of it reminded me that my daughter is 4, and she only has four years of experience and knowledge to apply to her life. As the parent, as the one with more life experiences and knowledge, I need to be better at seeing situations from her perspective. I should not be asking her to see things from my perspective. How could she? The last I checked, the only way to get from four years to 30 years is one year at a time, one experience at a time.

This little experience in my life has helped me learn that as young children are learning and taking new things in as they grow up, those things aren’t always going to be black and white, like truths and lies. Can you think of a situation with the child(ren) in your life who may have told you something that from your perspective was a lie, but maybe they didn’t see it that way? Can you think of a situation when you were telling the truth but your child perceived it differently? Please share!

Other posts in this series:

Wanted: Stories, questions, and comments on how to T.E.L.L. when a child tells a lie

Create a T.E.L.L.ing, memorable moment when a child lies

‘How I tried to address my child’s lie’

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