Honesty in parentingWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Lying was the cardinal sin in my home growing up. Just about any transgression would be met with forgiveness, unless you lied about it. Then, you were really in trouble.
When I was old enough to step outside of my own family momentarily and into the lives of others, I was surprised to find that not everyone held telling the truth in the same regard as my family. I found lying quite common in just about every realm of life: school, work, even family.
Despite my parents’ best efforts, I did dangle over the dark side at times when up against adolescent peer pressure. By the time I entered the real world, however, I ran quickly back toward my truth-telling roots. My belief in honesty was forever solidified when I began caring regularly for other people’s children. Any notions I had gathered that integrity was anything less than essential were lost when facing the most innocent among us. There is not a more powerful reminder of what is right than teaching those who have yet to truly do anything wrong.
As a culture, we are generally opposed to lying — about the big things, anyway. When it comes to the little things, there seems to be some room for debate. Many a person would claim that they lead an honest life. When it comes to saving $10 off of an admission fee, though, suddenly their 4-year-old is magically 3 again. It seems that honesty too often has its price.
Parents are faced daily with the temptation to make life a little easier on themselves by telling little fibs to their children. It is easier to say “The library is closed,” than to say, “We’re not going there now.” It is easier to say, “I don’t have enough money,” than to say, “I’m not buying you that.” As parents, we know that saying we are not doing or buying something only leads to the inevitable question “Why?” It takes extra time and energy to explain why not.
After witnessing the role of honesty in my own family and in the families whose children I have cared for over the years, I have made a concerted effort not to lie to my children or to anyone else for that matter. No big lies, no little fibs. There is no “Just tell them I’m not home” in our house.
I admit that I certainly falter once in a while. Sometimes that “Do you need me to call the police?” slips out when my 2-year-old refuses to get into her car seat. It does work, but is it worth it? At some point she will realize that I am not going to call the police over a toddler being a toddler. It is likely that my 5-year-old sitting next to her realizes it now.
Children respect and trust the actions of their parents above all else. How we live is their principal understanding of how life is to be lived. When we use “little white lies” to manipulate situations, we teach them that dishonesty has a place when it benefits us personally. It will not be long before lying will be benefiting them personally at our expense and the expense of others.
It is easy to grab for the seemingly harmless “benefits” of lying, especially in moments of frustration. It is difficult to reach a little higher in grasping for benefits we may not see for many years to come. To me, no amount of money, time or energy is worth risking my children’s future integrity.
The rewards of honest parenting extend beyond fostering honesty in our children. I have found that all of the explanations I have given in answering “Why?” have enhanced my children’s own ability to reason. They are also learning self-control; just because the store is open and you have the money doesn’t mean you should buy to your heart’s content. Perhaps most importantly, they need not fear that they are really 3 years old when they could have sworn they had already turned 4.
Shannon Szyperski and her husband Michael are raising two children in Sylvania. E-mail her at email@example.com.