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The Factizer aka Trying to ferret out the truth in kids' words

The mahvelous Queen of the Mayhem asked a great parenting question today. Answering it in comments took too much real estate so I decided to post. This one's in honor of you, Queenie!

Here's what she wrote:
Do you believe everything your kids tell you?

During my Open House speech with my parents.....I always end on a humorous note....I tell them that " I will promise not to believe everything they say happens at home, if you promise not to believe everything that happens at school!" We all get a good chuckle....but my point is made.

. . .

Being the mother of an incredibly over-sensitive child, I can appreciate this The Princess takes every statement that is not a glowing remark of her greatness to be a slap in the face......but here's the difference....when she tells me crazy things like this....I remind her that, just because someone isn't thrilled with something you do that is inappropriate...doesn't mean they don't like just means what you did was not acceptable!

. . .

Don't misunderstand....I am all about involved and concerned parents.......I am a parent...I understand that. But, before I take action based solely on the word of my child, I will be doing some investigations of my own! (Just call me the interrogator! ) :)

I make that same deal with teachers, grandparents, other responsible adults who might be privy to or subject of commentary by my adorable, precious yet somewhat prone to dramatizing daughters.

Like the Queen's daughter, my girls are walking vulnerable hearts on sleeves dramatic sorts who feel every little comment as a sharp stab.

"It's not okay to slap your sister, you stop that, now, here's what we need to do instead..." I can say quite calmly to Patience, only to have her collapse in tears.

"But mom she [insert perceived injustice here with no apparent idea of her own responsibility]...sob sob sob..."

"Patience, I understand sweetie, she [insert perceived injustice here] and that makes you [mad/is unfair/sad/insert word]. But slapping is never an okay way to handle it. We need to Use Our Words and if that doesn't work, we need a Plan B that is nice. I'm always glad to help you think of a Plan B."

Patience says, "Waaaaaahhhhhh I'm a terrible child and you hate me....waaaahhhhhh."


The thing is, as frustrating as it can be sometimes, I nevertheless understand that when it comes to my kids, they tend to relay events emotionally, as in "here's how it felt," which is usually a skewed version of the truth.

This is especially true of Patience, my drama queen. Not as much true so far about Persistence, who is more likely to be fairly sneaky and quiet about naughtiness, and, if caught, deny deny deny, then, if trouble ensues, shoot back better than she gets. Her fierce face is a work of art, master level.

But Patience. Oh how she longs to be Marvelous and Adored by everyone all the time, regardless of how she acts. She's a Nice child you know and doesn't mean Bad so it should all be Good.

She's the child who frequently says, "Mooooooomm, my teacher hates me."


Let's put that statement through the Factizer (yes, my friends, I have been known to say this aloud).

(imagine whirring noises and so forth)

Okay here's what came out of the Factizer: I was naughty and talking during clean up time and my teacher gave me a yellow caution and a verbal warning. I felt really bad and embarrassed to be called out, and for not doing what I should. I felt horrible for disappointing my teacher, worried about being in trouble and all I can think of to say to explain all of this is she hates me.

I love my Factizer.


Unfortunately sometimes it spits back "Inadequate Date for Translation" message and I have to investigate.

I make a point to know the teacher and be on good terms for that.

One of the K teachers at Patience's school and I are friends. We were chatting one fun Friday evening and I gave her the biggest laugh she'd had all day, I think.

"So, teacher Friend," said I, "Is there by any chance a student in kindie named Solange?"

"Why do you ask?" said she.

"Err well hummm it's like this. Patience keeps coming home with tales of a Solange who has an awful lot of trouble in school. She's got a lot of feelings---not very good ones by the way---about being in kindie."

"And you're worried because?"

"Okay well because either there is really a child named Solange having a very tough time or Patience is using the old 'imaginary friend' or 'my friend has trouble but it's not me oh no it's not me' tactic because it's sometimes easier to speak in the third person."

"Well," she said hesitantly, "There is a child named Solange, and she is having a rough time, but I can't say more than that."

"No need to!" I said happily, now realizing the Tragedies of Solange were another parent's problem, not mine. I mean, I feel for that parent, but we all have our own crosses to bear, eh. Don't need to carry each others in a case like this.

So tell do your kids communicate? How do you figure out what's going on with them, in their lives? How do you measure it against so-called facts?

I'm eager to hear about all ages and stages (believe me!).

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Using My Words
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Gwen said…
Fortunately--or not--my older daughter doesn't over dramatize things. Her feelings aren't easily hurt, she likes everyone, she isn't too hard on herself, but maybe because she never ever gets in trouble at school, or when she does, it's not that big a deal. But I worry the other direction--that people are hurting her and she's just shoving it under the emotional mat.

I know that she doesn't always get her facts straight, however, because sometimes I hear her repeat what I've said and I shake my head in chagrin at how much the message has been garbled.
Gunfighter said…
Being a police officer, it is sort of ingrained in me to interrogate people... my daughters, included. My daughters usually give me straight answers, but from time to time the youngest will give me some long, elliptical answer and will leave me asking multiple questions to get the whole story.
Anonymous said…
I want your Factizer. I want my husband to have it. The teenager has him snowed. "Son, where is the paper you wrote for the scholarship that is due this month?" "I left it at school." Next day, "Son, where is the paper?" "I couldn't print it out." "Can you e-mail it?" "Umm, no." Next day, "The paper?" "I forgot it."

How long does it take his father to realize the child has never written it? Factizer, please!

Very good post!
Annie said…
Since my only intelligibly verbal child has only just turned three, my answer to the question is Loudly. Be it positive or negative in nature, Miss E proclaims it for the world to hear!

She is extreme in her reactions, and over reactions and I have to say this worries me for a time when she's older and is coming to me with something serious - I just hope I can tell the difference between her being a drama queen, and a serious issue!
PunditMom said…
PunditGirl is a bit on the over-sensitive side, as well, when it comes to being critiqued and taking it personally. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree (!), so it's something we both work on!
painted maypole said…
I definately have to ferret out the rest of the story... MQ is not wuite as dramatic as Patience, but she does not make an effort to explain all the angles!
Anonymous said…
Fiona likes to "play pretend," which always sets off my radar much as Solange did yours. In this role play, she is her favorite friend at school and I am Fiona. Everything bad and unfair happens to Fiona.

Yesterday she came home with a red eyelid.

"I don't know. Right after I explained to Mrs. B that I hurt E by accident my eyelid started hurting."

Aha. Further probing resulted in, "I don't want to talk about it."
Magpie said…
My child is not yet four and already I get responses like "I don't know" or "It's a secret" when I ask her about her day at school. She's never going to tell me anything.
Kyla said…
BubTar is pretty honest Abe. And he NEVER thinks anyone hates him. I think that has something to do with the fact he's male.

The ONLY "lies" he tells are just slightly lessened versions of the truth, like when he got a red light at school and told me, "I was talking some and then during the parade I got left behind and had to run and catch up." The teacher's version was, "He was talking incessantly all day and during the Community Helpers Parade, he was running up and down the hallways wildly while flapping his arms around." Ahhhh, there's the difference.

He will confess to wrong doing, but he always tries to paint it slightly more in his favor. Or maybe that's just how he perceives the world. Like the time he got in trouble for having a spitting contest in class, and claimed, "I was only blowing AIR...the spit just accidentally came out of my lips, too." Riiiight, BubTar. ;)

I handle it by always writing a note to the teacher if the details seem a bit fuzzy. In fact, now when he gets an "I did not do my best today." paper for me to sign, usually she writes in extra details just for me. How lucky am I? LOL.
S said…
OK, that picture? Puts the capitals in ADORABLE!

And yes, I've developed some version of the Factizer over at my house.

Anonymous said…
Forget the kids -- my husband is the one who collapses into "waaah i'm terrible" at the slightest suggestion/critique!
Mad said…
Ya, I'm with Slouchy. That is one adorable picture.

Miss M is still pretty thoroughly honest. I keep waiting for signs of deception or over-dramatizing and they aren't there--at least not in moments where I would need a Factizer. Sure she milks the emotions sometimes but it still hasn't been paired with representing or misrepresenting events or people.
I absolutely adore the Factizer!

I am going to employ its use here at the Mayhem!

Patience and The Princess just might be long, lost sisters.

I did do a little investigating with my "friend" today and found her sensitivity has been heightened due to some social issues. Little girls are BRUTAL!

By the way...I laughed out loud when I read Kyla's comment...I can SO see that being Junior Mayhem!

All hail the FACTIZER!

Also...every teacher I know has no problem explaining things to parents when they are "fuzzy"...most of us are mommas too and sometimes we need clarification!

Oh...and I was sleep deprived and slightly grouchy when I wrote that post EARLY this morning! I did add a few slight retractions! (only slight!) :)

Thanks for your ideas! LOVE THEM!
MARY G said…
Oh my, yes indeed. The Queen of the Fairy Tale lived in my house, ages four to about seven. Then she was replaced by the Human Clam.
Whenever I was in doubt, I phoned the school. Example, 'Mummy, the principal spanked me with a shoe to-day'. Phone call elicited the fact that JK story time that day had featured a puppy getting spanked with a slipper.
Mind you, the spanking story was told very cheerfully and with no drama, as a fact, like 'We had indoor playtime 'cause it rained'.
Mummy, armed with the Factizer (I love that!) returns to 'principal' story. Kid has forgotten that she told the story and is into some other mischief.
Other than banging the head on the wall (mommy's head!) what does mommy do then?
Your Patience is gorgeous beyond words.
Christine said…
my girl is pretty honest and pretty much fesses up any naughtiness, but i am aware that this may not always be so. i love the child but this honesty may change. not that she'll be some big liar, but that she simply start exaggerating more.
Maisy said…
I have a well used factizer. Sometimes when I think that there must be more facts to be discovered I'll state that I'm just going to make a note to phone the teacher tomorrow, or sit and write an email right now....

Sometimes, just sometimes, this elicits a few more relevant facts for the factizer to factize and a whole different scenario emerges. Sometimes a phone call or email is still called for, sometimes it's not :)

Oh, and I know the factizer comes with instructions about how parental reactions have a huge impact on what facts are revealed, and I want to verify that I've found that to be very true. Accepting whatever truths emerge is essential. Behaviour can be dealt with appropriately, but parental explosion after voluntary revelation is best avoided. Sometimes merely having to 'fess up' is punishment enough.

Oh, and sometimes I find teachers need a factizer. Not all teachers, in fact not most teachers, but 1 or 2 in my 13 years of parenting children in an educational establishment, have required a factizer now and then.

I'm thinking about this question. For the time being, I'm speechless at just how much your daughter looks like you. And it's not just the dress. ;-)

Okay, the short version of my answer is that at 8 and 6, we're still pretty firmly entrenched in "Here's MY POV on what happened; here's what so-and-so did to ME."

And, you know me, I'm all about empathy and validating emotion. But more often, I need to ask "Tell me what YOU did. What were your actions in all this?" And it takes some getting down to, but other than the most extreme cases of bullying, there is most often a "takes two to tango and tangle" truth to the story. And my kids get now that even if they are heavy on their own POV, mom is going to get both - or all ten - sides of the situation.

We're working on empathy here, and because my kids aren't always sensitive souls when it comes to other people's emotions, we have to work on first of all understanding that there are different and (sometimes) equally valid points of view when it comes to sorting out the facts and the cold, hard opinions of everyone involved.

I do get the "you don't like me" and "I can never do anything right" crying jags, but I usually just let them go until the crying is done; they don't really seem to want any response or rebuttal in that particular moment. They aren't going to listen to reason; they just want to vent. Right now, a hug after all the venting seems to make most things right. A few chocolate chip cookies will definitely make things right.
Unknown said…
well, I don't know if you remember last Christmas when LP stole baby Jesus from Church? Actually, I helped him - but anyway, now this baby doll is his feelings interpreter - "Baby Jesus is sad. He wants a juice box. Baby Jesus needs to take a nap. Baby Jesus wants to go on the school bus with Isaac. Baby Jesus needs a passy." It's very, very enlightening At 3 1/2 he has no secrets from me, Baby Jesus tells all.
As for my older child -8 - he is a super responsible type. Chatty as he is about jokes, games, magic tricks, he tries to handle his school world by himself so I have to drag information out of him - I need some sort of factizer that will get him to start at the beginning - cause he gets so far along on his own and just wants me for a little help, but I have no perspective on the situation - he tends to skip to the "important" bit- meanwhile I'm clueless!
My daughter tiptoes up to subjects/confessions/worries.


"Mommy, I don't like to be alone in my room." pause "I feel lonely when I have to go to my room." pause "Am I going to get a snack after school today?"

Translation: The teacher sent home a note today, and I'm worried that I will be sent to my room to think about what I did and why it was wrong -- while my little brother sits in the kitchen eating his after-school snack.

Let's just say that when SHE starts asking certain questions, I know that I need to start asking my own.
Literacygirl said…
I'm glad you all are willing to listen to both sides of the story. Unforunately, the majority of parents today will defend their child to death even if there child was wrong, wrong, wrong. Nope, their little sweethearts are PURRFECT!
Gale said…
I could write a book, but who would read it? My daughter was/is a drama queen/screamer. We were in and out of school offices for her low frustration levels. I can't count the doctors visits we took to see if there was any help. We busted out butts trying to 'normalize' this kid. That was in way early 80s. We tried everything but shock treament and drugs. I was the all natural mom. It was a rough row to hoe. But she is 30 now, hopefully doesn't hold a grudge - shesays she doesn't. But I felt I was constantly fighting for her rights at the schools she attended. I still have the huge file somewhere. That poor little baby. We survived!

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