"Come on, we have to go!" A distinguished looking Dad is indignant as his young daughter ignores his fourth request to leave the library. She continues playing as he huffs and collects coats and books. "Now, listen sweetie. If you come now, we'll stop for ice cream on the way home!" He announces it with a joyous grin and holds out a hand to the blond preschooler. She looks up at him, smiles, and drops the toys she was playing with. An older brother leans in, "Really, Dad?"
"No," the Dad whispers. "I just need her to come."
At the time I saw this scene play out, I was shocked. As a new Mom, I couldn't believe that a Father would blatantly lie to his child. Now, nearly eight years later, I'm sad to say I'm no longer even remotely shocked when I witness parents lying to their children point-blank. I've realized lying to our children is a cultural norm.
Whether it's to ease a transition, to get out of buying an unwanted toy, to distract a child, persuade a child, or simply cover up something we don't want our children to know - lying in parent-child relationships is common. I've even heard people justify stealing their young child's Christmas money or throwing away an unwanted toy and saying it was 'lost'.
My husband and I made a commitment early in our parenting journey that we would never lie to our children because we just didn't feel it was right. We watched other parents constantly stretching the truth to ease their daily parenting duties and something about the method just didn't seem healthy. It hasn't been easy to consistently be honest with our children, especially with one extremely strong-willed child, but, boy has it paid off. We have a strong, authentic relationship with our kids and they trust us fully. No, not a perfect relationship, but an honest, open one. We've also had to dig deep within to discover how our sin and character flaws were impacting our kids - and do we ever lean hard on God's grace and guidance!
There are two concepts that stuck out to me as I looked at this issue of lying to our children:
1. Lying is a sin. Period. The truth is, we are called to be honest and upright in all our interactions. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" aren't just cliche words, they are words of life. This concept is a command. Would we want our children lying to us? Of course not. Then why would we lie to them? Even about seemingly silly little things?
In the middle of writing this post something ironic happened. My seven year old son (yes, the incredibly strong-willed one) was in bed and I visited him with a warm cup of water to say good night. "Mama?" he asked. "Do we have any decaffeinated tea instead of just water?" In this moment, I wanted so badly to just murmur, "No, we don't. Night. Night." I'm tired. It's been a long day. But, I sighed and chuckled that my seven year old would even ask such a thing and said, "Yes, Simon... but do you really need that right now?" Of course, he did. So, I got him a bit of tea, brought it to him, said my 'Love You's and all was well. If I had of said "no, we don't have any", he would have come down in the morning and found out that we indeed did have decaffeinated tea and he would have wondered why Mommy lies to him. It sounds trivial, but trust me friends, it isn't. This is the stuff our relationships are built on. It lead me to my second thought...
2. Dishonesty ruins relationships. The foundation of friendship is trust. Without the solid ground-work of honesty, how do we possibly grow a healthy relationship? I think so many parents who consistently lie to their children about small things truly don't realize the long-term affects of their actions. Our kids look to us for guidance. When we say we love God and want to follow Him, they are watching how our words actually affect our daily lives. How do we live? How do we treat people? How do we treat them? We are raising up little people. They are incredibly influenced by our actions and will often model our behavior.
I've also considered how my children can trust me if I constantly lie to them. If I tell them about faith and life and truth, I want them to trust my words are honest and true. If I'm always honest with them, they have no reason to question me. If I've lied to them in the past, they could certainly question my ability to speak truth and might wonder if and when I'm being honest with them. This should concern us deeply as parents, especially those of us who long to speak biblical and spiritual truth to our children.
Just like Solomon advised, 'an honest answer is like the kiss of friendship'. When we are open with our children, we plant seeds of truth and love in their lives and in our family relationships. They won't always like the answer, but they will know their parents are always completely real with them. Honesty is a vital component of healthy parenting. Lean into Him and cling to truth in every way, that truth will indeed set you free - not only in your parenting journey, but in your personal walk with God as well.
In humble love,
Scripture to consider:
"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor..." Ex. 20:16
"And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them." Luke 6:31
"Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak
the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another." Eph. 4:25
What are your thoughts on the topic of honesty with our children?