My child is 11. The age where telling “white lies” and “half truths” actually start to matter. And today was the day I explained to him why he MUST tell me the truth.
It all stared out so simply….”Honey did you read your book tonight?” “Yes mom” he said. I glance across the kitchen and see ‘said’ book on the kitchen counter. He has lied.
As a parent, I chose to address the lie immediately, this isn’t the first time. “Here is the book, sitting under the mail. How have you read it?” He says “I brought it in here before dinner and put it on the counter”… another lie. The mail is still sitting on top of the book. Just as it has been since 6 pm yesterday. There is no wiggle room to his lie. How do I approach?
“Why are you lying to me? ” I ask. Facts ensue…. he finally admits ” I don’t know why I lie… I’m just so used to it.” Where have I gone wrong as a parent? Do I rage? No! I ask him to sit at the table with me and explain why he evades the truth.
“A long time ago I was just like you. Lying to my parents because they didn’t know any better. They trusted me. They didn’t know the significance of the lies I could tell. They thought that threats and punishments would prevent me from lying. They were wrong. I don’t want that for you.”
As a “single parent” 24 days of the month, I explained to him that I am his “ONE”. I’m the one that will come rescue him from bad situations, if I know the TRUTH. “I will go the the ends of the earth for you. But I know you’re lying to me.” He tears up.
When I think back to when I was his age, 2, 4, 6 years from his age, that’s when I made the most significant decisions of my life. Lying came so easily. I love my parents but sometimes I had them so fooled, I almost wished they knew the truth.
I assure him, “between myself and your dad, we know all the lies you can tell. We’ve done it all. There isn’t much you could ever do that we wouldn’t have advice for.”
“The next decade of your life will be full of decisions, you will make good ones and bad ones. No matter what your decision we are more likely to support you if we know the truth about them. But when you lie, we are more likely to abandon you.”
He notes instances where his friends have made bad decisions, we discuss why they were bad, what he would have done instead… but I see that he is still reluctant to indulge me 100%. Just like me, he thinks he knows best.
I share with him a devastating situation where I lied to my parents at 14 years old… a situation I would never repeat to anyone… and he looks at me and says ” why didn’t you call nana?” I reply “because I couldn’t tell her the truth, lying was easier”.
He didn’t say anything for a while. Tears running down his face… he puts his hand on mine and says “starting tomorrow we will do better. We will tell the truth no matter what.”
We pinky swear.
I let him go to bed before I cried hoping that it can be that easy.
There comes a day when we have to let our kids know that we aren’t just the authoritarian. We aren’t their friend either. We are the people that are able to guide them but also punish them for decisions they make.
We have to be willing to ask for the truth from them. I would rather be able to advise toward “reality” than parent for the ideal.
My parents never really demanded the truth from me and the challenges of the 90’s are nothing compared to now.
So if you have the time, sit your kids down, talk to them about life decisions they will have to make. Lies, sex, drugs, peer pressure, drinking or anything else… move past your uncomfortableness.
It’s coming faster than you realize. Get ahead of it. Ask for the truth.