So my son loves to hear stories. Good. He loves to tell stories. Awesome! He likes to role-play out what he sees. Nifty! He is so full of imagination and inspiration that it is awe inspiring. But, there’s a problem. A conundrum, if you will. Mayhap I will call it a dichotomy in this whole Speculative Fiction Parenting motif. When he’s in trouble, he is making up grand stories to try and get out of it. To be blunt, he’s lying on an epic scale.
Now, it should be simple. Teach him to not lie via your preferred appropriate behavioral correction tool, be it time out, spankings, the shark-with-lasers tank, what have you. But I have two moral dilemmas here. Two things that make this not exactly the easiest and clearest cut problem to handle, and these are even beyond making sure he understands the actual working difference between the truth and a lie.
See, my first problem is: I lie to him like a mafia hitman in confessional. Wizard’s towers, robots that hide outside and protect the house, pirates, ghosts, skeletons, dragons, aliens. All of these are, in his opinion, proven quantities in the great world, right up there with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, and it is my fault. Granted, I don’t take it too far; that is to say, I don’t make up fantastical excuses to get me out of things with him. Such as saying we can’t go to the park even though I promised because a demon is attacking it. Nope, I make a promise, I carry through. But, what if he is telling me a story because he doesn’t know what happened as opposed to he’s hiding something he is at fault at? I can’t always know the difference right off the bat.
Then this kind of brings me to the second problem. If I chastise him falsely for lying or concealing the truth, then I’m more likely to hurt his imagination and his willingness to use it. It isn’t that I’m so frightened of his creativity being so fragile that a few false-positives will destroy it, but I still don’t want to punish him for being creative and entertaining as opposed to lying. That won’t help him stop lying, nor will it help him stay creative. So, if I get lucky, I only chastise him for lying and don’t hurt his imagination. Plenty of healthy doses of still asking him to tell me stories are surely in order. Also, while I do believe in spanking—that was how my parents taught me to not lie when I was five years old—I personally am aiming more for redirection, especially with a focus on making very sure that he understands the difference between a lie and the truth, and knows when it is okay to tell stories.
Oh, but that brings up our bonus conundrum! There is a certain youthful innocence that I am loathe to shatter, and that is the fine line between truth and lies. Perhaps I’m being romantic about the concept, but it seems to me there is something magical in that place between truth and fiction that young children inhabit, where they know something isn’t quite right, that perhaps some things are less real than others, but before reality has settled into the boring duality of “true” and “false” that us adults live in. So while I definitely don’t want my son to think he can get away with telling me bald-face lies, it is hard to make him understand that without hammering out the binary nature of world and destroying that fuzzy in-between. It is the destruction of this in-between, in fact, that I think makes children growing up come to start resenting fantasy and science fiction. They see such “unreal” things to be childish and push them away. Also kind of makes them hate you when they figure out Santa has to fall on the “false” side of the binary world instead of the “true,” despite all of their finagling about Mall Santas just working for the real one and all that.
So, there I am. Yeah, I am trying to soft-paw my way into getting my son to understand that he shouldn’t outright lie, but I’m still trying to preserve that fuzzy middle-space. As I see it, Wizard’s Towers, Dragons, and trips to other planets should stay as “very possible truth” for as long as possible, and be something they can ease out of while still enjoying the concepts. I guess time will only tell, though.
As usual, tell me your thoughts. How are you, my fellow Spec Fic Parents, handling the lying thing that all kids go through?
Richard Fife is a writer, blogger, and firm believer, still, in the “trichotomy” of the universe. He is self-publishing a free-to-read, illustrated serial steampunk novel called The Tijervyn Chronicles, and you can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.