My Child Never Lies. True or False?
“He lied! – that’s a 5 year old guest shrieking on a trampoline, as my 8 year old host awkwardly slips away.
“I can see you are upset, dear, but he NEVER LIES.
NEVER LIES. Is there such a thing? A kid, who comes out with the embarrassing truths? Who tells you about his grades even if he knows they are ba-ba-ba-baaaad this time around? The kid who gets up from his chair to take the blame in front of the whole class? The kid who can look mom straight in the eye and tell her that it was he, who broke her favorite heirloom vase? The kid who is marching out with bad math grade even before the report card comes in? Is that amazing kid is actually living with me under the same roof?!
Of course he doesn’t. Moreover, if he even could exist outside of the amazing kid fantasy books, real adult life would be excruciatingly difficult and painful for him. And for his parents too. And even for his friends and teachers…
So is this ostentatious, pretentious lie? Not exactly: it is wishful thinking. And surprisingly, I believe it can take you the long way on that truthful path…
All kids experiment with lying. Except they don’t see it as such. Kids view lying in a different light than adults: when we ask our little one “Did you wash your hands?, to us there is only one correct answer – the truth To kids – there is another – the answer that makes us happy: mommy is not happy with the answer “No, I forgot yet again. “Yes, – makes her infinitely happier, so it surely must be the right answer! “Wrong answer brings all kinds of troubles: parents upset with our grades, hassle of running back and going through all the hand washing ordeal, loads of complaints for not completing the chores, and of course, actually NOT eating that appetizing little sweet nothings…
While I understand this underlying truth about kids and lying, it does me little good: I still want to know what exactly happened to a crying baby brother, I still want his hands clean, chores done, candy after meals and not anytime he pleases, bad grades before the term is over and while we still can address the problem.
I want the truth. Good or bad. Weather I get it depends on me as a parent.
I have already discussed the study by the recently published in The Psychological Science magazine: Promote Honesty in Children. This study analyzes what type of stories are more likely to increase kids’ honesty. The results were clear-cut to the astonishing levels: the stories describing all the bad consequences of lying, all the awful things happening to children after telling lies did not inspire any kids’ honesty. I would guess, they just found it as another affirmation of “do not get caught philosophy. However, the stories describing positive outcomes of coming out with a truth actually resulted in lots great number of kids picking a scary honesty over comfy lying!
My own conclusion from this study was simple: punishment for lying would not promote any truthfulness. However, rewarding honesty – probably will! And when I say “rewarding, I don’t mean stars, charts, toys. If they did wrong, that’s not the place for it (if ever there is a place for lame star-gratification rewards in the first place). I mean a jail free ticket. It is my reaction to the painful truth that takes the precedence: taming my feelings and reacting in a calm understanding manner is the key. While honestly coming out with the guilty truth would not be a cause of celebration in my house, and I still would voice out whatever feelings I have about it, I want them to feel they can comfortably spill out however embarrassing or scary it is.
What do I do when my kids are indeed untruthful? A guilty declaration: honestly, I can lose it. Everyday I wow I’ll manage this day without yelling even once, and but lying can quickly send my good intentions packing. While I am still fighting through my own reactions to it, the outcome is simple: there are always consequences to lying. What consequences? Whichever ones that flow straight out of the action lying is covering up. Logical, simple, without lashing out (to the best of my ability).
So declaring such blunt ridiculousness as “my kid never lies I am not just being delusional or ignorant. I am trying to create a positive self-image. I want to let my kid know I believe in him, I can TRUST HIM. This is huge.
“I know I can trust him to tell the truth, – I drop this fairly casually, extending my arm to delay the running off process of my 8 year old. – “Now, you two, TELL ME MORE.