Guest post by Hank Osborne at Daddy Life
Honesty is the virtue we strive for in our children. We want our children and our family to be characterized by telling the truth and being honest. As parents are we modeling this virtue? Are those little white lies dangerous? Gary Ezzo and Dr. Robert Buckman say in their book On Becoming Childwise that one of the nine basic reasons why a child lies is “because of parental example”. How does the old saying go? “More is caught than taught.”
Maybe you have been a player in the following scenario:
[phone rings and dad looks at the caller id]
Dad [hands the ringing phone to his wife]: Honey, would you please answer this and tell them I am not at home?
I was once characterized by this type of interaction. Then I realized that I would not be setting a very good example for my children if I continued this as a parent. Now if I don’t want to talk on the phone I simply don’t answer it. If one of my kids ask me why I did not answer the phone I tell them the truth. I did not want to talk on the phone right now.
Any discussion on lying must start with the definition of lying. So what is a lie? A lie is an intentional false statement. Unfortunately our culture has normalized lies as acceptable behavior for the greater good. Sort of like the old saying, “The end results justify the means.” Have you seen or heard the Ad Council commercial that supports First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign where the parent is deceiving her child to get her child to exercise more? I drew attention to this in a blog post about a year ago titled Creative Parenting: Lie to your kids? It’s not just my opinion of this video, there are several comments on this Ad Council YouTube version of the commercial that call attention to the lie modeled in this commercial as being unacceptable and wrong. Yes, the end result could be that a child gets more exercise, but what does that model and how will that affect the parent/child relationship in the long run? Lying is easy and we find all sorts of reasons to justify it especially when the lie results in fun and happiness for our children and/or us.
In our house we expand the definition of a lie to include half-truths, deception, exaggeration, leaving out details on purpose, and those innocent “little white lies”. Is there really such a thing as an “innocent” “little” lie? I don’t want to get too preachy here, but “The Lord detests lying lips, but delights in those who tell the truth.” Proverbs 12:22 Two of the seven things listed as being detested by God in Proverbs 6:16 are related to lying. In the Osborne family we rank lying as one of the worst offenses since lying destroys healthy relationships. And healthy relationships based on strong character and virtues is a top priority in our family.
Here are three things we can do to model honesty?
Keep Promises – This one goes both ways. We need to mean what we say and say what we mean. If I am not going to be able to deliver a consequence within a reasonable amount of time then I should not threaten it in the store. On the other hand I should be careful not promise something like a one-on-one date with my four year old Josiah if I am not reasonably sure I can follow through with the quality time. The absence of a no equals a yes in the mind of a four year old.
Obey the Rules – This is a broad one, but it can include anything from obeying the speed limits to carrying food into an area where signs are clearly posted stating “No outside food or drinks”. I am still working on both of these I can assure you from experience that when your child begins to read they will call you out on the hypocrisy of you do not follow rule but require them to do so. “Do as I say and not as I do” simply does not cut it when trying to build a trusting relationship with an older child.
Avoid White Lies – I know this one is controversial, but a lie is a lie no matter what color you paint it or what size it come in. Remember that a lie is an intentional false statement. Lying erodes relationships. Don’t trade the truth and honesty for a little fun and entertainment.
So what about that tooth fairy?