Open the door to lies then doubt and truth will often take flight as well.
We talk about children lying but because we are the adults in charge, we do not talk about our own lying. Fess up, you know you do it— just like the rest of us. You say you never lied to your children? What about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny? And there was the time you really wanted to go to Library Day with your child’s class but you had the appointment you could not change. Was lunch with a friend that difficult to change?
Kids have built-in crap detectors and while they may not understand everything, they know when something just isn’t right. Doubt is invited through the door the minute inconsistencies pop up in your child’s mind.
“You will get cavities if you don’t drink your milk.”
“You sing beautifully!”
“If you read in dim light it will damage your eyes.”
“There is nothing wrong.”
“Masturbating will cause fungus on your hands.”
“I never smoked pot.”
“If you have sex I will know.”
Honesty and trust are important between parents and children but kids also listen to what you say to others.
“We are happy you are coming to visit.”
(You hang up the phone and groan.)
“My child was sick and had a fever last Friday.”
(Note to school after playing hooky for trip.)
“No, I’m sorry but I have no money to donate for the co-worker’s gift.”
(You simply do not like the person.)
“Officer, my child is sick and needs to go to the bathroom badly.”
(You were going 70 mph in a 55 mph zone.)
Remember you are your child’s most important model for behavior and that includes being truthful. If parents argue, don’t tell them there is nothing wrong; instead set the pattern for how adults discuss issues, compromise and then resolve them. If you speed like a maniac you cannot tell your teenager not to when they begin driving.
My older brother and I stared at each other in shock when we looked at our parents’ marriage certificate and discovered we had been lied to. We were approaching our teens but we were bound to find out at some point. They had pre-marital sex and married when Mom was four months pregnant with my brother. Mom and Dad could have used that as a teaching moment but Mom tried to say it must have been a mistake on the date.
Do you see how lies take on a life of their own?
Later, when my older brother and I had left home as adults in our early twenties, we learned Mom had another secret. She had an earlier child who was left with my grandmother and raised as our aunt— until the truth surfaced.
It is hard to put faith in the words of someone that may, or may not be true. What lies have you told your children?