Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Telling tall tales

“I went to four haunted houses,” T. proudly told his little sister during a recent drive home.

I immediately looked back at him. “Really?”

Guilty look. “Ummm….”

T. is scared of all things scary. He didn’t want to visit Six Flags because there were too many posters of zombies around. His uncle had an app on the iPhone that zombified pictures. H. loved it. T. didn’t. I can guarantee that up to this point in his life, T. has not visited one haunted house, let alone four.

T. has discovered the desire to make himself look better to another person. It is manifesting itself in what we are calling “Tall Tales.” We discovered this little habit recently when stories he was telling us were not adding up when confirmed. During this drive home, I knew for a fact that the story he was telling his sister was incorrect. And I called him on it.

By the time all was said and done, T. was feeling pretty bad about the lies he had told. I told him how when he tells these stories and I find out they are untrue, that it’s hard to believe him the next time he tells me something. How after a while it’s hard to trust someone who lies to them. How it puts other people in awkward situations when the original story wasn’t true.

I was careful to distinguish between the act of lying versus being a liar. T. is not a liar, usually. This is a new behavior. I don’t want this behavior to identify him, especially when he can make a conscious effort to change it.

I realize that there is a developmental aspect to this. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to allow it. Someone I trust suggested that now that we’ve laid down the law about lies, we need to start helping our son identify when he’s doing it. When he shares a story that we question, we ask him “Is this a true story or is it a tall tale?” His reaction has been fascinating. He stops, thinks for a second, and responds.  I think he is relieved that he can step back from a story before he actually gets in trouble.

Just recently he was telling me a story and ended it with “but that’s a tall tale.” So maybe it’s working?

I’m hoping it is.

What do other parents do when faced with this situation?

Reace Alvarenga-Smith is a Public Relations Manager for Texas Health Resources and Mom of two.

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