Archive for September, 2011

Teaching my kids to speak the truth

September 29, 2011

UPDATE: So when he came home, I told him I shared our story with some of my online parent friends. He was not really happy about that at all. “What?!” he said. “I thought you said you weren’t going to tell anyone?! I thought that was just between us … you lied!” Ouch. He went on about it for about 2 minutes and finally concluded firmly, “Well … I forgive you Dad, one hundred percent.”

But in the end, he is right to be upset about it and I’ve concluded, it was a mistake to share this story with others online. I told him I would not, and I turned around and did. The value of sharing insight with other parents, even for the innocent sake of learning together, is not greater than the value of sharing a solid impenetrable trust between a father and son. My take away – our take away – is the reminder that as parents we are far from perfect and we are seldom if ever “right,” in what we do. And thus, between my 7-year-old and I, the playing field of truth and honesty is now level. I think this puts him at a powerful position.  I will explain this to him and I hope he hold the position honorably.

Today, my 7-year-old son lied.

It was a big lie.

He lied to his nurse, his teacher and both his mom and me, saying he was “super exhausted” and couldn’t finish out the day at school. But, he didn’t put on a very convincing act. After he got home, while still in the car, my wife and I interrogated him to no avail. No fever, no nausea, no headaches … nothing. Just “tired,” though he didn’t look it, and had no reason to be as tired as he claimed.

The only thing I knew for certain was that he was well enough to go back, and finish out the day. On the way back to school, just he and I, I told him I was giving him a chance to come clean, and I promised him – between him and me (it wouldn’t leave the car) – he could tell me the truth and I wouldn’t get mad. With that, and quivering lip, he opened right up, and the unfiltered truth spilled right out of him. Having just celebrated his 7th birthday yesterday, all he could think about at school was coming home and playing with all of his new toys – and so he fabricated the “exhausted” story to ditch second grade. I told him I wasn’t mad, and that in fact, I understood how he felt. I’ve been there.

I told him I thought it was a bad choice, and why, and I helped him understand what kind of a life he can expect for himself if making bad choices becomes habit. I told him once we got to school, he needed to come clean with them too, which, though a little apprehensive, he did honorably.

And I think he understands how silly his choice was, and that no one’s going to come unglued on him for it. I told him again, as I always have, that if he’s always honest with me, he won’t get in trouble – no matter what.

I’ve thought about this a lot – and I’ve definitively decided today, that from here forward, rather than grind down my kids for lying, instead, I’m going to give them an incentive to tell the truth. And I’m going to avoid getting angry about it. It’s thus far the most effective approach I’ve found to foster honesty.