A classmate named Sarah recently told my four year-old son…
My mother-in-law takes my 3 year-old son at his word. That’s admirable. It’s cute, even.
If he says he doesn’t have to go to the bathroom, well, by golly that must be what he means. If he says he wants macaroni and cheese for lunch, she expects that is truly what he wants to eat. If he says he ate jelly beans for breakfast, she shoots us a look as if to say “how could you?”
I wouldn’t say the kid is a liar. In fact, he’s a good boy with great verbal skills. But, I follow the old “trust but verify” strategy when it comes to communicating with him.
I’ve known him for three and a half years, so I’ve learned to measure his words against his actions. I try to read him, as if I’m an FBI agent profiling his intentions and behavior. How strongly is his desire to watch television? If I ignore his first request, will there be another? Is he doing the potty dance and grabbing his crotch while he is telling me he doesn’t have to go to the bathroom? What exactly is his motivation? Can he be trusted?
This morning he denied telling his dad and grandma that he was willing to wear a pair of pull-up diapers to school. We’ve been trying to expand our potty training success at home to potty training success at nursery school. Pull-ups are required. He hates wearing pull-ups. So, when dad and grandma said that he agreed to wear them, I was skeptical. And sure enough, he said “no way!” when the time came to put them on.
I called dad into the room to ask him if the young one promised to wear the pull-ups. “Yes, he did,” said dad. Aha! I thought. I cross-examined the young one. “No, I did not say that.”
I hate to sound like a cynic, though I’m often called one. I just don’t take this kid’s word for much. It’s not that he’s dodgy or that he’s up to no good. He’s not a liar, per se. But, he is still learning about truth and consequences.
He is convinced that no question should go unanswered. He rarely says “I don’t know.” I think he would be more likely to make up an answer before saying that. And so, he is apt to deceive grandma and others when asked basic questions.
I’d believe him if he said he wanted a cookie. I’d believe him if he said the house was on fire. I would be skeptical if he said he didn’t mind having broccoli for dinner or that he was willing to take gymnastic lessons – two things he claims to like, but doesn’t.
Soon enough there will be actual lies to deal with. For now, the young one just likes to answer questions regardless of the truth. Things could be worse.