by Tiffany Rudd
One of the many perks of living next door to my sister is our constant book swap. We are both avid readers and enjoy many of the same genres so we are often sharing our latest great book finds. Last week Deborah talked about the book “Nurture Shock” by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman. I’m so glad she found and shared this book with me. We both loved it and would definitely recommend it.
This week, we decided to continue discussing the chapter on “Why Kids Lie.” The book referenced a study where children were observed in their homes. It found that, “four-year olds will lie once every two hours, while a six-year-old will lie about once every hour. Few kids are an exception. 96% of all kids in the study offered up lies.” Yikes! Do these numbers shock you as much as they did me? The book also talks about the fact that as children get older, “they learn to craft and maintain a lie.” (pgs 80-81) In other words, they are getting better at it! So, what can we do? How can we teach our children not to lie? Honestly, I’m not sure there is a perfect answer to this question. All children are different and all families are different. But, I will share a few ideas I learned from “Nurture Shock,” and some things that have worked in our family.
First, be an example of complete honesty. One of the first things the book challenges parents to do is “really consider the importance of honesty in their own lives.” I do not consider myself a lier, but I am guilty of the occasional white lie in social situations. We lie to avoid hurting someones feelings or to avoid awkward situations. And, in the past I’ve even expected the same of our children. I bet most parents have told a child to act happy with a gift or a food served regardless of his/her honest opinion. Encouraging children to tell these white lies helps them become increasingly comfortable with dishonesty. My son recently told his Aunt Deb that he didn’t like the pizza she brought over for dinner because of the “nasty red things” she put on it. Maybe in the future we need to work on his tact, but I’m glad he chose to be honest. :)
Second, give immunity and a clear route back to good standing. Children don’t just lie to avoid punishment. They also lie to try to make their parents happy. Remember Deborah’s post about the tales we tell to prevent lying? The story of George Washington was much more effective because little George was given both immunity and praise for telling the truth. “What really works is to tell the child, ‘I will not be upset with you, and if you tell the truth, I will be really happy.’” (pg 86) It’s hard for me to fight the urge to punish for the bad choice, but I constantly remind myself that immunity for the action and praise for the truth will teach a much better lesson in the long run. A favorite story in my husband’s family is one where he was young and broke something that was important to his mother. He immediately ran to find her and the first thing he said was, “Remember how you said we won’t get in trouble if we tell you the truth...?” She had obviously taught him the importance of honesty.
The last advice the book gives is to never test your child’s honesty unnecessarily. Have you ever watched your child do something that was against the rules and then asked them anyway? I definitely have! Oops! Our children have plenty of opportunities everyday to chose truth or lie. In these cases we are better off not testing. Just gently remind your child of the rules, help him/her correct the mistake and plan on plenty of opportunities to teach the value of honesty in the future.