In which I prove that I am really a Graduate student....

Friday, February 16, 2007

I realize that I have neglected to sound very.....professional here lately. Maybe cause I tend to save it for Gimlet, in order to earn the duckets ( in which I say "fuck it and get those duckets" - aw Rap. What poets!)

I wrote this as part of the only course I am taking right now - Social and Emotional development. We have to do weekly "thought papers" - and this one, by far has been my favorite to write. Perhaps because I am struggling with this puzzling behavior in Emily, and trying to understand my own compulsion sometimes to lie about stupid things

(No! That could NOT be my hair in the sink! What?!? How dare you insinuate that I was going to leave that bowl right there on the coffee table!!!)

So, I am curious to what you think about this topic.

P.S. Bears T-Shirt? Click Here. My next one? The one that says "I'm kind of a big Deal", although I do love the "I piss excellence"

"Maybe lying isn't all Bad"

So, in the shower today a thought about the readings occurred to me. Yes, I know. The shower? It seems that all my best thinking is usually in the shower. Who knows. I've simply learned to accept it.

You see, my daughter is going through quite the “lying phase”. At eight, she denies almost before she has had time to hear the question. It is almost a protective measure. If she hears the question being phrased in a certain tone, she begins to deny. For example: “Emily, did you flush the toilet?”. Now – we all know she did not flush the toilet. We did not hear the toilet flush We can see floating paper evidence of said use of toilet. And yet, she will look at us and lie. Yes. She flushed the toilet. She will stick to it. YES, she flushed the toilet. When faced with the toilet paper still afloat and the joint knowledge that we live in a small house and do not own a silent toilet ( so can hear it flush) – she will persist. YES! SHE FLUSHED THE TOILET!

Now, is this a protective lie? Not really. The worst she would experience is the apparently horrid punishment of flushing the toilet, for real. She isn't protecting us, as her parents, from anything other than the knowledge that she is doing something she really should know better about doing. She gets in trouble when she persists in the defense of the lie, even in the face of irrefutable evidence.

Now, as a teacher, I saw this same behavior. It puzzled me. Why lie about things of little to no consequence. Were these children without a moral compass? Were they the future serial killers of the world? Nope, I don't think so.

What I did wonder about was the testing of their social “technique”, if you will. The “can I sell her this with reasonable certainty that she will believe this” behavior. We know that until children reach a certain cognitive level they have a hard time deceiving. It requires a certain knowledge of theory of mind to think through what someone else might think and tailor your response to what you think they might want to hear – especially if your intent is to deceive them. Toddlers are still mastering walking and running without wiping out – this is a bit beyond their planning skills.

So, is learning to lie part of a larger social schema that has little to do with morality, and much more to do with developing our theory of mind as humans? Is this part of learning to read “cues” from other humans and developing our “gut” instincts? Does being a good liar ( and then perhaps a good hunter or gatherer by protecting your stash of food) have evolutionary benefits?

Furthermore, is there a gendered difference in how we lie and how accurately we can “detect” lies from our own gender and/or the opposite gender?

Now, again. As a teacher, I developed an almost sixth sense about lies. I can read body language like a pro – or maybe as a female, I was socialized to interpret much subtler cues about behavior. Now, my husband is perpetually gobsmacked by our daughters lies. Am I a more suspicious person? Do I assume that all children are liars? Do I possess some quality which developed from a professional knowledge and identity through working with LOTS of children?

Does learning to lie with success ( about non critical issues) actually signal a healthy separation from parent of child? A protection of the privacy of an inner life that does not belong between parent and child?

6 Baleful Regards:

Mitzi Green said...

i realize these are most likely hypotheticals and you don't expect me to answer your queries, but jesus, must you ask me such questions when i've been drinking wine and crying for the past 7 hours? i mean, damn, i haven't even figured out if i'm having a waffle or cereal for breakfast...

Lisa said...

Oh wow. You raise alot of good questions... Fortunately (or unfortunately I'm too doped up on cold medicine to even THINK about that sort of thing.)

Anonymous said...

"Does learning to lie with success (about non critical issues) actually signal a healthy separation from parent of child?"

I'd say it does, or at least that it's a normal (and perhaps a necessary) part of development. I wouldn't have thought about it before, except that my multiply-diagnosed nephew (bipolar disorder? brain damage in infancy? Asperger's syndrome?) has only recently, at 15, started telling that kind of lie. He's just now starting to grasp the concept of telling people what they want to hear, probably because he's just now starting to understand other people's point of view enough to imagine what it might be that they'll want to hear in a given situation.

Anonymous said...

You've given me an interesting new perspective on the lies. I think you're onto something.

Anonymous said...

My five year old son lies like this - I sort of think it is about not doing what someone else wants him to do, regardless of whether or not it is a good idea. It is just a "you want me to do it so I won't" response. Rather than brazen it out (which has been his pattern in the past) now he just denies that he didn't do it - flushing is an issue at our house too. It is a really interesting issue, you have given me a lot to think about.

Anonymous said...

Is it really "duckets' or should that be "ducats"? And yes, I am a total jerk. Sorry. Oh, and your cat pictures are hysterical!!! I totally love your blog. I found you through Jenn at BEAW. /bee

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