Children Need Our Honesty, Not a Bunch of ‘White Lies’
We’re often tempted to lie to our kids, be it the ‘white lies’ or the graver ones. We’d much rather lie about the sudden demise of the pet fish than deal with the consequences of telling children the truth. I’m guilty of doing it too. However, ever since we’ve put the kid in a Montessori environment, I’ve had the chance to learn more about my choices, sometime cringe worthy ones.
Montessori advocates that we never use excuses to explain something. So if a pet fish has died, it hasn’t ‘gone on a trip with God’ or ‘is at a better place’. Instead, it says that we should explain the situation as is, and help children find the words of comfort they can most associate with.
This approach sounds very contradictory to our own upbringing sometimes. I lost a brother at the age of seven, and I wonder how I’d have reacted to ‘he’s not with us anymore’ as opposed to ‘he’s gone to heaven’. Would I have accepted it better? Let’s move this discussion away from death and to more trivial things. On days when we don’t feel inclined, we say there are monsters at the park. Why not just say that we’re not feeling up to the task of going to the park?
Dishonesty is a trait best learnt at home, and is often imbibed very quickly as children are natural storytellers. Here’s what a constant cycle of lying teaches them:
- That when they’re in trouble, they can get away by lying about the situation
- That a simple lie will not do any harm
- That white lies are okay
- That it is okay to lie and be lied to in close relationships
- That nothing is wrong or immoral until you get caught
I don’t have to point out what these attributes will mean in adulthood. Lying at workplaces and in relationships could become a common occurrence, keeping up the farce until trouble comes knocking.
Here’s how we can encourage our kids to be more honest with us, and even more so, with themselves.
- Never lie to them. Set an example. Don’t make excuses for being human.
- When you catch them telling a tall tale to get out of a tricky situation, let them know you’ve caught on.
- If their teacher is concerned about them lying at school, listen to their concerns and don’t dismiss them.
- If they’ve done something wrong but confess to you, don’t be too hard on them. Reinforce the fact that they were wrong, but also appreciate them for speaking to you about it.
- Always keep your doors of listening open. Some children resort to lying to get their parents’ attention.
- Always understand the root cause of lying- the reason they’re doing it is much more important than the lie itself. Try and resolve the underlying issue.
If you find yourself reacting angrily to their lies, take a step back and think of your childhood. I know I lied about a few things, mostly because it was the cultural norm, and I’m sure we’ve all done this. So let’s guide our children and give them the space they need to experiment with behaviours.