How do we persuade children that honesty is the best policy? Is it, actually, the best policy? Are there not some grey areas where it most definitely is NOT the best policy and, indeed, a big fat lie is the best way to go?
My Sensitive Soul is painfully honest. I clearly remember the Christmas when they were small and The Tall One had handcrafted a gift for his smaller brother. Sensitive Soul opened it while The Tall One stood over him, hopping from foot to foot with excitement.
Tall One: ‘I made it for you!
A brief expectant silence while Sensitive Soul turns the gift over in his hands
Sensitive Soul: ‘Yeah, but it’s not very good is it?’
Clearly, in this case, a little white lie would have been good if only to save the rest of us from the fall out, but how do you teach children when it’s ok to fib/stretch the truth/tell a whopper and when it really isn’t?
Last weekend my daughter announced that a man had offered her friend a pound as they were going into the park. All my alarm bells went off at once. I calmly (ish) asked her to explain and then rang the friend’s mother to get her side of the story. After much to-ing and fro-ing I finally got to the bottom of it.
Daughter and friend had gone to the local shop to buy sweets, when they got to the counter they didn’t have enough money and the man in the queue behind them offered some to make up the shortfall. Kind, if a little foolish, on his part when so much is open to misinterpretation and adults are not encouraged to talk to or help children which are not their own (that’s another blog post so I’ll hop off that bandwagon for now).
I had two issues to tackle as a result of this event. The first was to take the opportunity after an event which had scared her but not (thankfully) put her in any danger, to talk again about how to conduct yourself when you are out and about and how to stay safe.The second was the importance of truth. She had chosen to stretch the truth a bit and say the events had happened at the park rather than in the shop because she thought I would be upset about her buying sweets. This had put a very different slant on events and almost saw me calling the police to search for a man who had only been trying to help.
Parenting is such a minefield. All we can do it take our cues from each situation as it arises and take every opportunity to talk things through. We all learn from experience and we have to have experiences in order to learn. I cannot wrap them up in cotton wool until they are grown, much as I would like to. It is our job to do our very best to equip them with the skills to survive and flourish and let them stride out on their own.
I hope that what she took away from this was the knowledge that nothing she does will stop me loving her, that anything can be talked through and sorted out. That the truth is nearly always the better option. (And that it is fine for her to go and buy sweets.)
How do you handle lies and truth?
(Truths and Lies Image: Flickr Creative Commons. Flickr user xtrarant)