It’s a question just about every parent asks at one time or another. Parenting Education Director Dara Newman shares her insight.
We look our child in the eye and ask, “Did you eat all those cookies?” They look back at us, directly in our eyes, and say “NO!” But we know they did.
“I saw a tiger outside,” exclaims our excited three-year old. But we know they did not.
We ask in response to their request to go play with the neighbors, “Did you finish your homework?” “Yes” they reply. But they did not.
“Did you throw that ball that broke the window?” “Nope,” comes the response, although we know it’s not correct.
Most parents can rattle off a similar list, and many of us are upset or anxious when our sweet children are “less than truthful.” Why? Because WE value honesty. We want our children to tell the truth, take responsibility, and be trustworthy. But our toddler did see a tiger! And the child was attempting creative (albeit not-so-honest) problem-solving so it would be possible to play with his or her friend.
Toddlers are living in the world of imagination and creativity. Hobbs IS alive to Calvin. But all Calvin’s parents see, through their grownup eyes and using their grownup cognitive skills, is a stuffed animal. Young children go through a developmental period where they give life to inanimate objects. This stage is developmentally important in order for the natural procession to the next cognitive and social stage. When we enjoy with, and delight in, our child’s world, we are giving them the sense of security they need to thrive. So, maybe next time your child, with his or her wondrous imagination, sees a dragon in the backyard, you too can delight in that fire-breathing, colorful friend!
Children, like adults, do not like getting into trouble. However, their cognitive skills, grasp of causality, problem-solving capacity, and ability to clearly communicate are not yet fully honed. In fact, their brain is not completely developed until they are in their mid-twenties. The more they get to practice in their childhood, in a safe, secure, environment, the greater developed these cognitive skills will become. So what should we do when our children tell us they didn’t break the window, did do their homework, or didn’t eat all the cookies—when in fact we know the “truth”?
Keeping in mind they need our help to learn, and keeping in mind they only learn when they are calm and not scared (thus, not in trouble), we work with them. We set them up for success. If we know they did or did not do something and we corner them into an answer, then most likely they will fib. However, if we say “I know you didn’t finish your homework yet and I know you want to play outside, how are you going to figure that out?” they can learn. Or, “Oh, it’s a big problem the baseball just broke the window, what do you need to do to fix it?” Or, kiddo, you know the rules about eating too many cookies—let’s think about what you need to do next time, because I know you like dessert, but eating too many cookies is not healthy.
As parents, our goal is to help children develop these skills and when we SLOW down and take time to teach, reteach, and teach yet again, having them participate in the learning and problem-solving in a future-oriented, non-punitive way, we will be fostering the natural developmental process. AND it makes our life so much easier, because we do not have to do all the work; they are coming up with ideas because they know we are with them, collaborating and learning together. So next time your child tells you something less than truthful, get into their world and figure out what is going on for them—because they need you!
Remember–If you have questions or concerns about your child, help is just a phone call away. A parenting consult can give you the guidance–and confidence!–you need to handle any problem, large or small. Call 721.7690.