I wrote this over 20 years ago. It was in a personal journal based on an experience I had with my first child and for me it changed how I parented my children. I came across it the other day looking through some old writings and decided to publish it to this blog as some basic parenting advice. I couldn’t believe this was done 20 years ago and I never really did anything with it, so here it is.
This story begins when my oldest child was about 5 or 6 years old. I was in the living room picking up toys and cleaning up a bit, when she had walked into the kitchen. After about 10 minutes I was wondering what she was doing, I walked into the kitchen to check up on her and to my surprise and dismay there was an entire bag of flour all over the floor. I was a little shocked at first because she had never done anything like that before.
I was really upset she made such a mess and I said to her “why did you do this”. I thought it was a simple question that would have a simple answer. She looked at me and said “I didn’t do it”. I was a little taken back, after all she was the only one in the kitchen and she was covered in flour. I was also really surprised how easily she could look right at me and lie, even when the truth was obvious.
As I was cleaning up I started to get a little concerned that if my child could so easily lie to me about something obvious and quite honestly irrelevant, what would happen when my children go older. I started to really question, how do you trust your child if they can’t tell you the truth. I really wanted to figure out why she had lied and if there was a way to prevent it in the future.
The answer I came up with was simple and eye-opening. The reason why my child lied, it is because, well, I was a liar. Let me say this, I was not lying intentionally or consciously. What I realized was every time I would ask my child a question that required telling the truth I would preface it with “if you tell me the truth you won’t get in trouble” the very same statement my parents would say to me, right before I lied to them. I never actually thought about it before, but I started asking myself, why did I lie when my parents said that? Then I realized, if you tell your child they won’t get in trouble if they tell you the truth and they get in trouble when they tell you the truth, as a child you start to lie to not get in trouble.
The answer as to how to fix it was obvious, I needed to change something because that statement wasn’t working. The first change I made was what I would say to my children. I used the phrase “actions have consequences, it you are honest with me, there will be punishment, if you lie to me the punishment will be much more severe”. The reason I said it that way is because I wanted them to know that actions have consequences and the level of consequence is up to them. Misbehaving isn’t automatically forgiven if you tell the truth. I wanted my children to understand that if you don’t follow the rules or they are misbehaving there are consequences.
I started thinking about what I wanted my children to learn and what would serve them best throughout their life and offer them the greatest chances at success. I wanted to clearly convey the idea that lying is not the easy way out. Decisions have consequences and they will be held accountable. I thought teaching honesty and accountability, and integrity all in one phrase was probably the way I wanted to go. When I started to change how I spoke to them , they started to realize that I will get mad, I will get upset and they will be grounded, however, they also realized that I would make it simple, easy and it went away fast. I made it a point not to dwell on what they did and moved on.
The Deviant View – Parenting Advice
I never thought that something so obvious would lead to a change in how I parented. I realized that lying is learned, it’s not something you are born doing. If it was indeed learned and the only person she had regular contact with was me, then she had learned it from me. This was a moment of clarity to me. I realized that as a parent I have a much larger role in the development of my child then just telling them what to do.
We as parents should understand how our actions and words affect our children. Just because we are in the position of authority it doesn’t always mean we are right. We should always try our best to parent by example. That is great parenting advice. We should consider that our children are impressionable and will naturally imitate what they learn from us, especially at an early age when they are just starting to figure everything out.
Throughout my parenting I always tried my best to be true to my word. Believe me there were plenty of times the things I agreed to in haste or to get them to leave me alone came back to bite me, but I did them anyway. The reason I did it was because if they couldn’t trust and believe the things I said, why should I expect my children to be honest with me. Parenting advice comes from just about everywhere today. I think we should all just stick the the basics when it comes to listening to others parenting advice.