So regular readers of this blog know that I have four children, and that all of those kids are so different, it’s entirely possibly they came from different mothers. Except that of course, they really didn’t. 🙂
I’ve touched on one who is tough as nails, and another a tad melancholic, and also made allusions to yet another being the life of the party.
It’s that last one I’m talking (writing?) about today.
I’ve mentioned before about being a student of my kids personalities and how each ‘type’ leads to different character traits. (See post here for full disclosure on not putting kids in boxes and so forth :))
Well one of my girls is most definitely the fun-loving sanguine personality type, and I love her for it. She is always keen to be around people, will jump in and give anything a go and is the friendliest, most compassionate person you will meet.
She is, however, fond of a story. It’s no surprise really. With a fisherman for a father, and a writer for a mother, it’s only natural that she would seek to convey information in the most exciting way possible. Who wants to hear a dull story after all? 😉
The problem is, however, (and I’m sure we have all faced this dilemma at some point or another), is that occasionally, in a bid to make her story more memorable, it turns out to be not quite so truthful. Most of the time it’s just a stretch of the facts, but other time the picture being painted is in stark realisation to the actual truth.
In fact the other day, in her effort to up the ante on something that she had already described about a thousand times, she altered one detail just slightly, but it in a way that could have got many people into lots of trouble had the wrong person heard it. It was this point, that Boatman and I both realised how imperative it is that we get on top of this habit.
Exaggeration can seem such an innocent thing, that often, as parents we let it go. I mean really, we ignore it so often in adults anyway. Fishermen’s fish become a bit bigger, that headache got a little worse, and that mean thing that chick said? Well that got just that little bit nastier. Often, as the listener, we know someone’s pulling us along a little, so we let it go, but at the end of the day, what it actually boils down to is dishonesty. And dishonesty is something that as a parent, I feel I need to really get on top of as quickly as possible.
This point was driven home to me just the other day, when a colleague was recalling a story another work friend had told, in which she made a comment regarding me, that was categorically untrue. Thankfully my manager, having a better understanding of my character, corrected her, and it was all fine, and no one’s reputation was tarnished. But it could have so easily gone the other way.
There are so many ways our kids can exaggerate and actually deceive us which we often unconsciously (or sometimes consciously) allow, without really considering what we are teaching them; that it’s ok to alter the truth for personal benefit.
Instead of allowing the untruth to continue, we need to be proactive in catching the exaggeration and using that moment as a teaching tool for character development. In our home, that often looks like this:
With Exaggerated Sickness:
Asking the question, and expecting an honest answer “are you really that sick?” I find that most times, this works so well in actually obtaining the truth, and helping me to understand what the problem is. Usually it’s related to not wanting to go to school for a particular reason, needing some extra time with me, or just being tired. Once I know the issue, I can work on helping them find a solution.
If they are still determined to continue with their initial prognosis, I offer the only available course of treatment. A lie down in bed with no tv, books or anything. I’ve been very clear to my kids: if you are going to pretend to be that sick, I will treat you as if you are that sick. It gets old for them very quickly.
With Exaggerated Stories:
Work out what’s the motive. Is it the need for a great story, and if so why? Why do they need to be the most heard/popular/funny/whatever? Is there another issue we need to work on?
Is there a desire to get someone is trouble? And why? Are there sibling problems that need addressing, or perhaps a bully issue? Are they just being mean and vindictive, and you need to work on training a kinder heart?
With Exaggerated Accomplishments:
Again, what’s the motive? Insecurity, or the desire for praise? Is there a love language need not being met? Or is it just a child that gets caught up in a great story?
Regardless of what form it’s used in, it’s important for us to realise as parents that sometimes exaggeration is going to be the sign of a heart issue that needs addressing, and other times it’s just going to be a bad habit that needs to be broken. Either way, I believe it’s something we could all stand to be proactive about, in our kids as well as ourselves.
Because really, when is the fish ever that big? 😉
Do you, or your offspring struggle with exaggeration?