My 5 year old son, the whippersnapper, has been doing that thing kids do when they reach a certain age of awareness...and no, I'm not talking about messing around with his business (he's already discovered that). I'm talking lying.
The whipsnap has begun outright lying when asked if he's done something. Now, I should know better than to ask--especially when I can tell he's lying. But sometimes I genuinely don't know what happened--even if he lies about it. Example: is that water on the couch pillow, or did you wipe your nose on it?
It struck me the other day that I no longer trust the whipsnap because he lies almost every time he tells me something. It wasn't a good feeling, but it was true--I have lost trust in him. I've tried threatening that I always know when he's lying. I've tried explaining that owning up to something you did is easier and faster. I've tried changing my language to not use the word "lie" and focus on the positive ("Why don't you go back and use soap this time" vs. "Did you use soap? Don't lie about not using soap.")
Nothing worked. Until I remembered that awesome ad from the 1980s from the Mormons, or Church of Latter day Saints (LDS) as they like to be called. Do you remember the one? It's about the boy playing ball and he breaks a neighbor's window, and it's Mr. Robinson and he goes "Whooo broke my window?" and they sing a magnificent and rather catchy song about telling the truth and how it's so much better. It starred Alfonso Ribeiro (who must have been highly impressed by the experience since he went on to play Carlton Banks with such squeaky clean aplomb). Remember? Here:
So, I told the whipsnap the story of a boy playing ball. I made it all dramatic, and made Mr. Robinson quite upset, and even spoke the lines of the song. The whippersnapper was enthralled. I had his attention. I described the boy coming forward and saying, "I broke your window with my ball, and I've come to confess." And then how the boy still had to pay for the window, but he felt better inside, and Mr. Robinson was so happy that the boy told the truth. Turns out, those LDS folks knew what they were doing with that. It was hugely effective, and made a big impression on the whipsnap--without even having seen the ad!
Later, when I asked him if he'd used soap when washing his hands (he hadn't, he'd been in the bathroom 2 seconds), he automatically said "yes." I reminded him how the boy who broke the window felt better for telling the truth and the whipsnap said, "No, I didn't use soap." I praised him for telling me, and then directed him to use soap.
God, this childrearing business is tiring and difficult. Good thing there are old Mormon church ads as parenting aids out there. I'm just wondering how the Schoolhouse rock "I'm Just a Bill" ad will translate?