I’m certain that most parents have the pleasurable task, and I mean that completely sarcastically, of trying to help their children understand why lying is wrong. On one hand you can’t go around spouting everything that is on your mind for fear of needlessly hurting someone’s feelings, but you don’t want your children to learn to lie or even fudge the truth.
Our journey of trying to teach our three-year-old the importance of truth started early one morning when she came bolting into our room–her pants totally soaked.
We have been desperately trying to get her toilet trained for school, but she has an unhealthy fear of the bathroom because the toilet unexpectedly flooded on her one day and she regressed in her toilet training.
Needless to say, we were disappointed that she had had an accident, and I wasn’t looking forward to stripping her and her bed down to get everything cleaned at the buttcrack of dawn.
We thought this would be a good time for her to reflect on what happened, what went wrong, and what she could do to prevent this from reoccurring, so we asked her a simple question, “What happened?”
Her answer was simple, “Jader peed on me!” Okay, to start we knew this was a flat-out lie. Her sister, who is only two, may be able to undress herself, but there is no way she could carefully get up in the middle of the night, take off her pajamas and diaper, pee on Emily’s crotch and carefully dress herself and go back to sleep.
It was an obvious lie that we had to address.
We pointed out that we knew she was lying and were disappointed that not only did she lie, but try to get her sister in trouble, who was obviously innocent. We sat her down and explained to her why it was important to tell the truth, and why you should never ever try to get someone in trouble for something she didn’t do.
I have to admit that teaching this particular subject to my kids is a touchy one, especially since my little lady is so precocious. Yet, despite the sensitivity of this subject–and many more to come in the future–I strive to meet each topic with honesty and understanding. I try the best I can to convey why something is wrong or right, and in the case of lying and white lies, why some people find grey in this area. I feel that in order to properly teach my children, I have to be 100% honest with them if I’m ever going to get through to them.
I think the most difficult thing about discussing many topics, such as lying, is that there are so many grey areas and complexities. You have to try to keep it age appropriate, but also be completely honest and open to talking about all aspects of a topic so your children don’t get the impression you’re deceiving them or not being completely truthful yourself.
It’s easy to leave certain things out because it’s not easy to discuss with them and you don’t want to confuse them, but in today’s age children are learning a lot from their peers at a younger and younger age–and it’s not always accurate. It’s better they learn it from us and what are expectations are on the subject matter, than letting little Johnny give a playground tutorial on how and when fibbing is okay.
I realize that the older my children get, the more complex the issues they learn will become. I’m confident that even though it may be uncomfortable explaining the ins and outs of life, they gain more respect for us and what we’re teaching them if we take these subjects head on and tell them the truth–just as we want them to do with us.