Friday, March 4, 2011

Kids Need Truth

There are long-standing traditions of deceit in some families.  Kids are told that Santa Claus is real, that there is a Tooth Fairy who buys their teeth, and that there's a big bunny who goes around hiding candy on Easter morning.  Yes, these made-up characters can seem like fun, but what if your children really believe these things?  What will they think when they learn that you have been lying to them?  How will they feel?  Betrayed, hurt, doubtful of other things you've told them?

What a way to dive into a sensitive subject, huh?  But really, whether you tell your kids that Santa Claus is the one who brings them presents on Christmas morning or not, don't you think it's a good idea to consider the consequences of lying to your children?  

Lying is one of the quickest ways to undermine our trust and authority as parents and caregivers.  It is also teaches kids that it's okay to lie in certain situations.  We may believe that it IS okay to lie in certain situations - like when we explain to our boss that we are home sick with the flu when we really just wanted an extra day off.  Or when we make up important-sounding reasons for why we aren't available to play with our kids.  But when our kids start lying back at us, following the examples they've been given, it's easy to preach that lying is wrong.

As parents, shouldn't we want our kids to trust us?  Shouldn't we avoid betraying our children?  Shouldn't we teach them to tell us the truth by example as well as with words?  Let's show our kids how to live honest lives.

One of the best ways to foster close and healthy relationships with our children is to lovingly tell them the truth.  This doesn't mean we need to go into gory details about what happened to Fido, the family dog who was hit by a car.  It doesn't mean we need to tell our preschoolers the latest news headlines about suicide bombings or share with them personal details about our adult relationships.  It does mean we need to take their questions seriously, think of honest, age-appropriate answers, and tell the truth.  If we don't know the answer to a question, we should admit it.  If we don't know how much information to give, we can tell them that we'll think about the question and get back to them with an answer after giving it some thought and research.  If we don't want to answer a question, we should kindly admit that, too.

It is better to say to a child, "I'm not going to tell you about that right now because you are too young," than to make up an answer to a tough question.  Kids will eventually find out when you've told the truth and when you haven't, and your level of honesty will play a big factor in determining their level of honesty when you ask them who broke the lamp in the living room.

Questions for thought/discussion:
How do you do when it comes to being honest with your kids?  Have you ever told your kids something truthful and then wished you hadn't?  If so, how did you handle the situation?  How have you handled a situation in which you believed your kid to be telling a lie?

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