(Originally posted at Rational Jenn)
I've been thinking more about this issue since I wrote about it the other day. (By the way, I really appreciate the comments, too!) And I have another example to share.
Now that we've talked so much about lying and truth in the last few months, everyone is suddenly on the Truth Patrol. A common way for Ryan to begin a story is "Mom, I have something really important to tell you about what Morgan is doing right now and it's the truth. [insert story that I didn't really need to know here]" Or when the kids have a disagreement, everyone immediately pipes up with "That's not true! What I'M saying is true!" "No, I'M saying what's true!"
Suddenly it's vitally important that I believe what everyone is saying. Which I think is a good thing, since it means that they want my trust, yes? Even when the desire to be the one person who is telling the truth nearly results in fist fight, yes? :o)
When Ryan prefaces a story with "This is the truth" I will usually say something like "Just say what you want to say. I can decide for myself about the truth of it." And when the story checks out I'll follow up with a "I'm glad I could trust you to tell me the truth about XYZ." Trying to reinforce how our relationship is benefitting from all of this truthiness.
If people are arguing about who is "saying what's true," I'll usually take the same strategy. It's more difficult because of the logistics of more than one kid, but typically we try (when I remember to be calm and not be personally invested in the conversation!) to stop everyone from talking, let each kid have a turn to say his thoughts uninterrupted, and work out the issue as usual from there.
Sometimes, the kids will get really worked up, when the other doesn't believe him/her (most often as a result of a genuine misunderstanding, rather than that someone is actually lying). An example might help. Hmmm....let's see. A lot of times, it's because someone (let's call him "Ryan") is making an assertion or assumption about the other (let's call her "Morgan") and a disagreement arises. Such as:
Ryan: "Morgan doesn't like to eat pizza when it's too hot." (Which is true, but you may substitute a completely ridiculous or unfounded assertion if you like, because he makes those just as often.)
Morgan, not hearing the end of the sentence: "No, Ryan, you're wrong! I do like pizza!"
Ryan, taking instant offense to being told he is wrong about something: "I'm not wrong! Mom, she's telling a lie!" -OR- "No, Morgan, you're wrong! You DON'T like to eat hot pizza!" Pick your favorite.
Enter the tears and accusations (always a crowd-pleaser). Now I must take a few minutes (or hours, as the case may be) to explain to one what the other meant and explain to the other what the one meant, and that is sometimes all that is necessary. Or I could also say to Morgan: "You know what kind of pizza you like. It doesn't matter what anybody else says or thinks about it. You know what's really true."
That's another way to reinforce lots of good philosophy, I think. To help the child understand that nobody else can change the truth about what you are thinking just by saying "Nuh-uh" or "You're wrong." That you can make your own judgments. That you can hold to your judgments in the face of opposition. To trust your senses and your mind. To know that Mom and Dad will back you up. Good stuff.
Also, it usually helps bring a close to the "discussion" and that is also a value of mine. :o)
Seems like these kinds of disagreements arise when someone is trying to guess what's inside someone else's head. I wonder if there's a way to work that observation in the next time such a problem arises. There's a thought. I'll see if I can do that.
I'm interested in your thoughts and ideas--I always need good ideas of what to say in the moment. I try to keep a running list of Good Parenting Things To Say--a repertoire, if you will--in my head. I'm not so good in the moment, saying the things I'd like to say, and/or saying them how I think I should say them, but if I have a stack of Good Parent things already in my brain, then it's easier to be successful during a crazy situation.