The other day my son had an “accident” in school.
These accidents are now fewer and farther between than they have ever been before, so when they happen, my little guy typically seems a little sad.
“I’m sorry. I went pee pee in my pants,” he says.
He changes himself and gets on with his day.
“Accidents happen,” we tell him. “Next time, try to get to the potty in time.”
But this time, when his teacher saw his pants and asked him about it, he had a brand new tactic: He refused to admit his guilt.
“That’s not pee pee.” (It very clearly was.)
“It’s just water.” (It very clearly was not.)
My son’s first lie! This was not a milestone to celebrate. I was flummoxed: how to respond to this first fib?
“My gut says there’s more to it,” says Amy Schroder, manager of parent education at Hartford Hospital. “It’s not so much that he’s telling an elaborate lie. At that age, he doesn’t have the capacity to be deceptive like an adult does. He’s trying to avoid the truth – the fact that he peed in his pants – and the discomfort or shame that goes with that.”
I thought about it more. Where did this come from? I remembered a few weeks back we’d gone to dinner with friends. He spilled water on his seat, thought he’d wet his pants, until I told him: “That’s not pee pee. It’s just water.”
Schroder realized very quickly, he was taking that experience and substituting it.
“It really happened to him once,” Schroder said, “and that day, he wished that it had happened again.”
She suggested that I wait to address the fibbing until the next time, and focus on letting him know accidents are okay.
“If he understands you still love him, even when he does something wrong,” Schroder says, “then he won’t need to lie because he won’t feel bad about telling the truth.”
I know I will have to deal with lying at some point. But for now, I’d rather deal with soggy undies.
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