"I don't lie to be mean, I just tell them I am doing something I am not so I don't have to play with them".
It was an answer given by a seven-year-old girl during one of our programs last week. I had asked the group if there had been a time recently when they hadn't told the truth. The reason for this question is to identify truth and lies and how they can be honest, authentic and themselves. The first few answers were expected, responses like telling parents they used toothpaste when they hadn't, but then the can of worms of young girls social interaction opened, and it all came spilling out.
They all admitted lying to their friends because they didn't want to play with them. Not because they didn't like them, or enjoy playing with them, but because they wanted to have some time alone, they wanted some space, they were tired and wanted a chance to be alone. The issue is; they thought if they told the truth, they would be punished for it, and the sad thing, with every story I heard they were.
I was given examples of how the girls who say they don't want to play are left out of the group, picked on and called names. When they told their friends they wanted to play alone, they were laughed at. Therefore, the girls realised they needed a story, elaborate stories at that - from ballet lessons, to sick family members - in order to remove themselves from a social situation. They felt they needed an excuse not to play so that they wouldn't be punished by the other girls.
What was interesting is they agreed they could also be mean, and say horrible things, in the same situation. When someone told them they didn't want to play, they admitted to punishing them.
They then told me adults do the same thing (very interesting) and I tend to agree. Do we tell people honestly we don't want to join a particular social occasion or event because we want our own time, or do we use our busy schedules to remove the potential conflict? "Sorry, I would love to join you, but I have a work deadline." What tools are you using at home to remove yourself from a social situation you don't want to join?
Maybe our girls are following our lead - ballet class, pet feeding, and swimming lessons are being used as excuses to remove them from social situations.
What can we do about it? Firstly, it seems they are craving some alone time, so do we need to schedule so many playdates and activities? Secondly, we need to be aware it is happening and as a start we need to talk to our daughters about allowing their friends to have their space. We need to teach them that this is not a form of rejection that deserves punishment. They need to learn to admire and respect their friends who tell them the truth. True friendship is allowing each other to be themselves.
Then we need to encourage our girls to do the reverse - to feel comfortable being honest with their friends. This might take time, so just be aware, the next time you hear your daughter tell a friend she can't come over to play because she has a swimming lesson, she might be using it as a tool to remove herself from a social situation.
Finally, be aware of how you present the situation in your home environment? Are you being honest with your friends in front of your children?