Posts Tagged ‘lies’

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.


Telling the Truth

October 12, 2010

When I was twenty two years old, I decided to read an entire set of encyclopedias. I was that guy.

I wish I could say I finished, but the truth is, I had randomly hand picked about half of them to keep in my car (yeah, I was that guy, too.) So with half in my small New York apartment, and the other half in the back of my silver Ford Escort station wagon, I just never got a good reading system going to finish the collection.

One night however, back then with a bottle of Merlot and hand-rolled cigarettes, while curled up with a hard-cover copy of A-B, I came across the name, Bobadilla, and the very interesting story accompanying it.

It was one of the first times I realized that I had been lied to in grade school. You know, deliberately speaking falsely is one thing, but in some cases, I believe intentional omission of facts is akin to lying.

And so we have Bobadilla.

The Cliff Notes version is Francisco de Bobadilla was hired by Spanish King Ferdinan and Queen Isabella to take over for good ole’ Chris Columbus across the way here in the New Land. In 1500, once Bobadilla got there (or here, rather) he confirmed reports that Columbus had been a cruel and dishonorable leader in the Americas, and was thus sent back to Spain in shackles and chains.

And while I don’t imagine anyone will rush to their dusty book shelves to read the rest of the story, they might read more online about how Christopher Columbus was arrested.

It’s insightful, especially for the generations who learned in school the story of Christopher Columbus the hero, who set out bravely in search of the New World, with his three mighty ships, The Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Ma- OK, you know the plot, at least as we were told it in school.

Why do we uphold the tradition of telling our kids the sanitized versions of such historic tales, and then fail to follow up with the truth, the rest of the story, when they are older? Like the Native Americans and White Man sitting down to break bread, and be at peace, and live in harmony and be BFF’s. Oh, is that how it happened? I’m not so sure that’s the whole story.

I suppose it’s gotten better to some degree. My father’s generation was taught in school that the Red Man was nothing but a savage, beast-like man who scalped the innocent. Since then, history texts have undergone major restorations, to reflect the Native American’s naturally spiritual and peaceful ways, and the greed and plunder of their paler “visitors.”

Or on Valentine’s Day, which we learn is about love and cutting pink doilies and making cards when we are little – but then we are never set down in class at an older age and told about St. Valentine, one of many martyrs killed, for right or wrong, for what he believed in. That’s an important story, and a great lesson wasted. It’s a missed opportunity for a sixteen-year old student and a crucial question not asked: What would you defend until the end?

I just think telling our kids partial truths breeds confusion.

I’m not sure if it’s gotten better since I was in school, so I asked my six year son tonight what he learned about Christopher Columbus this year, and he said, “well, he only wanted gold and spices to get rich and someone else actually discovered America anyway.”

It’s a step in the right direction, I guess.

But it’s still a half truth, which is a gross inadequacy of our American education system.

I don’t propose to have a answer. But I have a question. How can we expect our kids to grow into responsible adults who speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, when we ourselves condone, and in some case even encourage, the glossing over of crucial points of life?

It’s a gap I hope all of us parents can shorten, together as we go.