About ten years ago or so, we were going through this thing with the kids (at the time around ages eleven down to two) where they were lying to us ALL THE TIME. Kid lies, and most of them fairly benign but sometimes it was important to know something and it seemed like they were incapable of telling the truth.
I can’t remember where it was that we first heard of it or how it started, but I know we borrowed the idea from somewhere: we told the kids that when they lied to us, a red dot appeared on their forehead that only we could see.
For ages, the kids would cover their foreheads with their hands when they answered a question about something missing, something broken or someone else in the house who was hurt or crying. We could see the frustration on their sweet little faces as they tried to work out how to word things so that they wouldn’t show the tell-tale liar’s dot. I even caught one of the kids in the bathroom one night scrubbing their forehead with fury.
Like most (how ironic) untruths told to kids, eventually they caught on that it wasn’t real. And also, I began to feel a little racist when I realized what I had told them. A red dot on the forehead…jeez. I remember specifically one time my daughter not buying into something I was saying and she told me loudly and in front of her siblings that I had a red dot on my forehead. Of course the little buggers backed her up and said they could all see it and that was the end of that.
Like most teenagers, my kids can be fantastic liars when they want to be. Sometimes I can tell, and sometimes I can’t. But I think that it’s part of growing up to test your boundaries and learn what you can and can’t, what you should and shouldn’t get away with. Besides, my kids do still come to me about the really important stuff and that’s what really matters to me. Over the last year or so, due to issues coming up in our home, in their friends homes, with people we know and with world issues at large we’ve covered: eating disorders, divorce, suicide, loneliness and multiple questions and conversations about sex and sexuality. In most cases, what starts out as a conversation between one or two of us will eventually bloom into all the kids and I sitting in a room together (or standing in the kitchen as I make dinner) hashing out these HUGE issues. Sometimes one or two of them will come to me privately after to ask something more personal or to talk to me about a related issue that they didn’t want to say in front of their siblings.
So I know, red dot or not, I’m doing something right. And the kids? They’re okay.