Thinking games

With each activity, adjust the difficulty to match what you think your child can understand. This is a pretend game, in which the parent takes the lead.

Right, we’ll play the pretend present game. I’ve got a present for you. (Parent thinks of something exciting to pretend they have to give the child.)

Okay, thank you.

Now you have to guess what it is. It is big.

Is it a horse?

No, it’s very big and round and blue.

A flying saucer?

No, it’s also very wet and fun to play in.

A swimming pool!

Yes!

Coins, so I asked: “Where did you get them from?” and straight away she answered: “From your purse.”

I knew my purse was empty, so I had to make her tell the truth. It was very upsetting.’ Sometimes it’s hard in new situations for children to weigh up right and wrong, as temptations (or opportunities) occur. With their newfound powers of explanation, carefully developed by you, they realise they can fabricate explanations after the fact.

Don’t let them confuse you. Help them to look back at what they were thinking and feeling at the time. After helping her to be specific, Shelley’s mother told her: ‘I understand what you are saying — that you wanted the money. I know you like saving up and it looked like anyone could have it. But you felt it was wrong to take it, because then you pretended it came out of my purse. That’s true, isn’t it? Do you know who it does belong to? How would it be if someone came and took some out of your money box? Now what can you do to fix it up?’

Shelley went with her mum to give back the money and apologise. Chances are good that Shelley won’t make up stories another time — this was fairly uncomfortable for her. But, if she does, she will know that it’s possible to get back to the truth and fix things up.

Keep reminding children of the truth in different situations — for example:

I’m as old as Phillip.

No, Phillip is 10 years old, you’re four years old.

I know him.

No, you don’t know him.

You said I could have an ice-cream today.

No, I didn’t.

Well, Dad said I could.

Okay, let’s check that out with Dad. (Or: So, if we go and ask Dad what happened, what will he say?)

Encourage owning up, by showing consequences for the lie, while making it clear that it would have been much worse if they hadn’t been brave enough to own up. This helps us to be honest in our dealings, because children will pick up on the dishonesty and even drop us right in it. Here’s an example: