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Child „lies“ Hidden fears and untold wishes*

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They went fishing for the first time. In the real ocean. Kryštof held the aquarium net firmly and moved with sure steps in the knee-deep water. He looked for the schools of fish and observed the slithering abalones. With glee he watched the scurrying crab and shared every experience with his dad. They both enjoyed it greatly. They discussed fishing strategies, jumped over small crags and sunk into soft, shallow pools. They fished for fun. Each fish was let go, back into the sea , while thinking about the adventurer Jakub Vágner. The imagination of five year old Kryštof, who loved the depths of the ocean, was fully engaged. One moment, he expected a shark to swim by and the next moment a huge octopus.

Grandpa and myself came up and enjoyed watching their enthusiasm. Once Kryštof saw us, he hurried over to grandpa and exclaimed. “Grandpa! Come here! I just saw a crab that was this big, right here, really!” His arms were out wide and it seemed the crab should be a half meter long. It was obvious to me that Kryštof would love to see and catch such a crab. That he’s dreaming out loud. But also that he was testing if it is possible for such a crab to exist and if he should be afraid of such a creature. I had no idea how grandpa would respond. I expected him to most likely deny this lie. The fact that he thought about it was clear to grandpa, me and even Kryštof.

But instead of that, he mentioned: “When I was a kid, I once slept at my friends’ cottage in Černošice (Czech Republic), where the only forest inhabitants were deer. I really wished I could see one. Then when I met mom and dad, I imagined that they could jump over the roof. I wished it so much that I believed it.” Similarly like grandpa’s parents, he took this “lie” lightly. Even though you would normally expect him to give a detailed account of the current situation.

I was grateful for what grandpa did, that he didn’t take Kryštof’s enthusiasm and imagination as a blatant lie which he should be ashamed of. He indirectly motioned that it’s a great image and didn’t ruin it. This helped Kryštof to clear up what was imagination and what was reality.

We could then enjoy in good humour of a limitless variation of images starting with the word “and if” and let ourselves get carried by the waves of wishes, dreams and imagination.

*When children lie and why is described very precisely in the book, “Between Parent and Child”, Haim G. Ginott, Three Rivers Press, New York, 2003. The author lists the three most common situations. All require patience and empathy from the parent so that the relationship of the parent and child are kept open and honest.

I. Children imagine, so that they can add what they are missing in the real world, i.e. the feuilleton above. These lies then describe their fears and wishes (hopes). Our goal is then to focus on understanding their needs and wishes rather than denying and disproving their lies. Understanding the problem can help the kids tell the difference between the real world and their imagined “reality”. They will then better cope with that the real world differs from their hopes or fears.

II. The children often gravitate towards lies when you force them to defend themselves with your questions. For example: If we pose questions for which we already know the answer and child knows it. If the questions are small traps, in which children must choose between a dumb lie or an awkward confession, e.g. “Who ate this chocolate?” When the one who poses the question gives a menacing look. The child, who’s face is covered in chocolate will probably say that it was either someone else or a “hidden restless elf”.

III. Sometimes children lie because they can’t say the truth. For example: expressing true feelings about their close relatives, because they are neglected or physically punished for it. They are then forced to tell the parents only what they want to hear, not what they see or feel themselves, e.g. the statement “stupid aunt” is negated by saying everyone likes aunt and adding, for example “You aren’t my nice boy when you talk about aunt this way.”

Author: Lenka Mikovcova, Translation: Marek Hubbell