I've lied a few times. It hasn't ever felt good. I can still think of the last time I really lied, the word "NO!" blurting out of my mouth faster than I had time to even process the question and think about the potential repercussions...and then feeling silly for having answered with a blurt instead of a simple and honest 'yes', feeling guilty and weak for never righting that lie.
I don't lie to my kids. It's really important to me that I make accurate statements, that my truth is portrayed as my truth and not THE truth, that I don't put words into other people's mouths and that I let my kids know when I plain and simple just don't know the answer.
They've been asking about fibbing. We like a song from They Might Be Giants called 'Fibber Island', and the kids started asking what it meant. We'd talked about lying (intentional deceit), tall tales (stories with exaggerations), pretend, imagination, fairy tales and fantasy, but we hadn't discussed fibbing. Shoot. How was I going to do this?
I actually think lying is not a big deal. It's a symptom of a greater problem, a disconnect, a desire to please a parent or whoever. The fear of rejection for telling their truth, the fear of displeasing is greater than the desire to share one's own truth, and there grows the lie. If we can address the fear, if there's no fear of love withdrawal or fear of repercussion, emotional trauma, rejection, physical harm, then there's no reason to lie. My kids tell on themselves all the time; my mom thinks it's really funny, but I keep telling her they have no fear of my reaction, they never wonder if I'll love them less (even if I get angry), they never fear getting hit, they just know that I'll want to know so that we can take care of whatever the thing was, like drawing on the wall, putting stickers on the chairs, biting the other one, stepping on Dragon's hand, whatever it was. One of my favorite parenting people, Scott Noelle, from EnjoyParenting.com explains it much better than I did or can. I understand it can be tricky to know if a statement is a lie, but that's not what this post is about.
I've really tried to help instill in my children a desire to discern between accurate statements and statements that are not accurate. I don't like the word 'truth', and it really bothers me when I hear kids other kids, "That's not the truth!" or something like that. When one of my kids says something that's inaccurate, it goes something like this: Cloud might say "Rainbow's favorite color isn't pink, mine is"; I'll have Rainbow address the inaccuracy, let him know what is accurate, and if he chooses to keep on with it, I let her know she's said her piece, she doesn't need to change his mind, she doesn't need to listen to him, she doesn't need to engage, and I support her during the process (I mean, they're only 3 and 4 years old...) My hope is that they will continue to think about what they hear and make a conscious decision about whether or not they will believe it, accept it.
And when it comes to Truth...that's where the world turns gray for me. To me, each person has her own truth. It's like perception. It's like that classic example about five people seeing a car accident and each of them having a different story about how it was caused and what the details were. I wasn't able to really verbalize how I felt about this until I read "The Voice of Knowledge" by Don Miguel Ruiz. After that book, I felt so settled, so calm. I could look at a person and feel comfortable knowing that person had their truth, and that I didn't have to agree, I didn't have to like, I didn't have to argue about someone else's story--it's their story, and they are the main characters in their own books. If I didn't like a story, I didn't have to be a part of that, I didn't have to lend my energy to it. I found myself much less drained, way more emotionally charged, and much happier. And I let my kids know that my truth doesn't have to be their truth, that their truths are important, they are their truths, and their truths can change and grow as they do.
I encourage my children to judge their actions for themselves based on how good their actions make them feel. Rainbow told me sometimes she doesn't want to share her truth, she just wants it to be secret, so she just says something that's wrong. I told her that was lying, because she was intentionally trying to get someone to believe something that she knew was wrong, and I asked her how she felt about it. She said it didn't feel good, but she just wanted to keep some stuff a secret. I asked her how she felt about secrets and she said, "Kind of awkward." I told her secrets were important, special, and that everyone has them. I told her she should feel comfortable keeping some stuff to herself and figure out a way to politely decline giving out any or all of the information asked of her. She really lit up (happily) when I said that, and I felt like I had a real rock star parenting moment. I view honesty as being really important when looking on the inside so that we're happy with what comes through to the outside. If I'm honest with myself about x, y and z, and I know that I want to keep z a secret, then I can say x and y and honestly say I don't want to talk about anything else. If it comes from my heart, then I have much less reason to give in and talk about z or get persuaded into talking about it, or just blurt it out without thinking about it--and I'll have no reason to lie about it. One hope I have for my kids is just saying, straight up, when they don't feel like talking about something. It's something I've learned to do as an adult that I wish I'd known how to do as a kid.
***Visit Living Peacefully with Children and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in next month's Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival! Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- Why Is It Considered Normal To Lie To Children? - Laura at Authentic Parenting wonders why people lie to children on a regular basis
- A Lie Is A Lie - Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama outlines ten reasons why she believes parents lie to their children on a more than casual bases.
- Telling Truths - Survivor at Surviving Mexico writes about the difficulty in raising a bi-cultural child when cultural norms are not mutually exclusive, specifically in the area of lying.
- Honesty in Illness and Death - Laura at WaldenMommy:Life Behind the Red Front Door writes how she and her husband strive to be open and honest with their Herd of children about tough subjects, especially death.
- Talking Honestly About Death - Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work, is glad she chose to be honest with her children about the deaths of their pets, despite her fears of upsetting them.
- Freedom through Honesty - At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy speaks to how honesty allows us to break free of the chains which bind us.
- Guilty Children? - Jorje of Momma Jorje touches on the many ways lies (and accusations of lies) have impacted her abilities as a parent.
- Choosing Our Words: Everyday Honesty With Children - In her guest post at The Badass Breastfeeder, Alice discusses the importance of being honest with children, even when it seems easier not to.
- Truth/Lies...Accuracy, Honesty...Love - Mari from Honey on the Bum talks about how a shift in perspective helps her deal with inaccurate statements and secrets with her kids.