Welcome to the February 2013 Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Honesty
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by Authentic Parenting and Living Peacefully with Children. This month our participants have written about authenticity through honesty. We hope you enjoy this month's posts and consider joining us next month when we share about Self-Expression and Conformity.
One universal parenting truth (in my humble opinion) is to instill honesty in your child. Help them understand what a lie is, what it can do, and how to navigate difficult conversations in an honest way.
A second universal parenting truth (again in my humble opinion) is that CHILDREN should not lie but all bets are off when it comes to being honest with your children.
Of course, there is a fine line here right?
Parents lie to their children All. The. Time. Does this sound familiar:
- No sweetie – we are out of those crackers (when really, you just don't want to get into a battle over eating a snack too close to mealtime).
- I haven't seen that puzzle in a long time (when you know where it is but do not want to deal with the mess).
- Nope – all the playgrounds are closed today (because you don't want to go out in the cold).
- If you eat that you will get really sick (when in fact you do not want to take the time to explain why that food item is not a healthful choice).
- There is no reason to be scared.
- Santa is watching you.
- The tooth fairy will be coming tonight.
- The Elf reports back to Santa.
- Nana went to heaven and she is sitting on a cloud keeping us safe.
- Oh, what is a prostitute? Oh, that's just another word for someone who is unemployed.
- Oh, what is a condom? That is short for condominium.
While your “lies” may not be exactly like these examples, I think you get the point I am trying to make.
When did it become perfectly acceptable to lie to our children? We, as adults, do not like being lied to by anyone. So why would we think that it is ok to lie to our children on a fairly consistent basis?
First, I think parents lie out of laziness. I agree that is can be easier to avoid the truth a bit and not be bombarded with 10,000 “whys” from your 3 or 4 year old. At the end of a long and busy day, the last thing a parent wants to do is deal with a power struggle. So of course the parent lies to make things easier on themselves.
Second, parents lie to avoid conflict whether this be a parent-child conflict, a sibling conflict, or a relative conflict. As human beings, we do not like to be pushed outside of our comfort zone and conflict is a sure fire way to do this. So, most of us avoid it. In this case, we do so by lying to our children.
Third, I think all parents want to protect their children, preserve their innocence if you will. I certainly won't advocate that parents explain the concept of a prostitute to their 5 year old but instead of lying, I believe that you can simply say that it is not a line of work that I (as the parent) feel you need to know about now. We'll talk about it when you are 13.
Fourth, mainstream parents believe that they must always be the authority with children accepting their word at face value. Even if it is a lie, children are not supposed to question it. Therefore, lying just becomes a habit.
Fifth, parents underestimate their children's ability to handle and accept the truth. Sugarcoating death (in my experience) is not necessary. Children understand so much more than we adults even do, especially on an emotional level. They are connected to the universe in ways that we adults have become disconnected from.
Sixth, parents may lie to their children to avoid being wrong or to avoid embarrassment. For some reason, parents think that they should know everything about everything in order to maintain that authority figure status. Actually, telling the truth and admitting you do not know something or that you were wrong shows children what it means to be human.
Seventh, parents lie to their children as a means of supporting them. We have become a very praise oriented society, good-jobbing our children to death. But have you ever stopped to consider how a “good-job” or a “you did great” might actually hold your children back if indeed there was room for improvement?
Eighth, we lie to our children to get out of doing things without hurting their feelings. We also lie to others in front of our children about this exact same thing. If I am not up for a playdate, I don't lie and say I am sick. I simply say that today is not a good day and let's try again next week. My real friends accept and understand that. Children need this same respect. Telling them that you cannot play right now because you just want to read one chapter in your book is much better than telling them you have a backache and need to sit down.
Ninth, parents lie to cajole a child into “acceptable” behavior. Santa is watching, anyone? While I am not telling anyone to rid your home of the spirit of Christmas, I am saying that I do not believe it is right to use a fictional character to con your children into behaving. Ever heard of being a parent and helping your children navigate developmentally appropriate boundaries?
Tenth, parents do not want to support their children during emotional outbursts and therefore try to give them a thick skin by saying things like “there is no reason to be afraid” and “big girls don't cry over things like this.”
As I said before, there is a very fine line between responding to children in a way that matches their developmental stage and lying to make life easier (both on ourselves and on our children). However, deceiving your child at such a young age sabotages the foundation of trust between the parent and the child. When a child finds out about the lie, they start wondering what else their parents have lied about. And then of course, they conclude that it is ok to lie so long as you do not get caught.
I am working overtime, trying to guide Tiny towards a life of authenticity. Yes, I have lied to her. But for the past year, I stop myself, admit to her that I was not giving her the correct information, and begin again. I also make sure that I do not lie in front of her. Not that I could anyway. She will make sure to correct my story in front of whomever I am lying to. She even catches me when I “leave out” information. She'll fill in the blanks for whomever I am talking to.
I'm not condemning anyone who has lied or is lying to their children. According to the book The Day America Told the Truth, 91 percent of Americans surveyed admitted to lying routinely. On average, we lie about twice a day. So really, it is sort of just part of life right? We have become programmed to lie.
However, after reading this post, if you STILL believe that lying to children is perfectly acceptable, then I seriously have to question YOUR character as a human being. Because even if you mess up and lie tomorrow, as long as you try to rectify your action, you are making one huge parenting step. You are modeling what it means to be an honorable, trustworthy, authentic human being.
Do you purposefully lie to your children? If so, what lies do you tell and why? What need in you drives your dishonesty?
Visit Living Peacefully with Children and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in next month's Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon February 22 with all the carnival links.)
- A Lie Is A Lie – Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama outlines ten reasons why she believes parents lie to their children on a more than casual bases.
- Telling Truths – Survivor at Surviving Mexico writes about the difficulty in raising a bi-cultural child when cultural norms are not mutually exclusive, specifically in the area of lying.
- Honesty in Illness and Death – Laura at WaldenMommy:Life Behind the Red Front Door writes how she and her husband strive to be open and honest with their Herd of children about tough subjects, especially death.
- Talking Honestly About Death – Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work, is glad she chose to be honest with her children about the deaths of their pets, despite her fears of upsetting them.
- Freedom through Honesty – At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy speaks to how honesty allows us to break free of the chains which bind us.
- Guilty Children? – Jorje of Momma Jorje touches on the many ways lies (and accusations of lies) have impacted her abilities as a parent.
- Choosing Our Words: Everyday Honesty With Children – In her guest post at The Badass Breastfeeder, Alice discusses the importance of being honest with children, even when it seems easier not to.
- Truth/Lies…Accuracy, Honesty…Love – Mari from Honey on the Bum talks about how a shift in perspective helps her deal with inaccurate statements and secrets with her kids.