To lie or not to lie...to your kids?I try not to just dabble in honesty, I strive to live there. But how much is too much? Is it possible to parent with complete, unflinching honesty?
With myself, in relationships, work, and parenting, I've experienced how insidious secrets and lies can be, so to avoid drama, my mantra is this: total honesty, coupled with kindness, is universally the best policy. But, how do you go about teaching and instilling that in your kids?
It's hard for a preschooler to navigate truth from lies, and I've begun to catch my son lying to me without even realizing it. I want to nip this in the bud before we get to the tween years, so at my house we are at Honesty def-con 2. Red alert. But it may not be working out quite the way I had anticipated…
I've tried a few different tactics and thought I was doing a pretty good job modeling honesty. Until, last week, feeling self-righteous, and a little grandiose about my parenting skills, I made this bold proclamation to K:
"I have NEVER lied to you and I always tell you the truth. So I expect you to do the same."
Rookie move. I saw his little brain process it and then look up at me,"But mommy, you lied to me today. When you said I didn't have to go to my kindergarten meeting." Crap. He was right. Smug mommy didn't see that one coming. He was putting up a fuss to go to his kindergarten literacy assessment, and I quickly finessed the situation to sound more fun. "Fine, you don't have to go to the kindergarten meeting, we're just going to go somewhere and play some games." Which wasn't entirely a lie, but not completely truthful either. More like "truthiness." He acquiesced and went to the assessment without protest.
A couple days later, I hear, "Mommy, there's another time you lied to me. Remember when you told me that you bought that light saber for Toys for Tots?" Damn. Busted again. Reminding me of when, too lazy to make a 2nd holiday trip to Target, I tried to buy his Christmas present with him there. He freaked out big time, thinking that he wasn't going to get a light saber, and I had to come clean and tell him that I lied to him and why. Total amateur mommy hour. He's making a sport out of this now. I scan my brain for all the other lies I've told him.
Yes, I'll be right back to lie down with you.
Eating tomatoes will help you swim. (for the record, my grandmother told me that one.)
If you lie to me, it's written on your tongue. I can see it.
I'm sure there's plenty more, but my smug mommy brain won't let me think of them right now...
Every time I lie to him, I feel it's justified. It is a means to an end, and I know that I always have to back it up. Parenting isn't a sprint, it's a marathon, and there are days when I adhere to higher parenting standards than others. If I aim for 100% total honesty, I'd be lucky to register at about 85% - which is a number I think I, and my child's future therapist can live with.
And boy, am I beginning to see the fruits of my labor. Just the other day K said, "Mommy, remember, you're not allowed to have cake because you're getting too fat." Yup. I did say that. Honesty. Feels so good.
Do you lie to your kids? Do you feel guilty, or that's it's a tactical necessity? How do you teach them to tell the truth?
-Diane Mizota, Host of This Week in M.O.M