Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Liar, Liar - Pants on Fire

This is my first response blog post. When I read It's Time for A Voice of Reason, I knew that I wanted to follow up on the subject. Let me state right away that I’m not responding in an effort to dispute what he has written. In fact, I think he makes more than a few valid points. I particularly agree with his position regarding those who search for dishonesty being bound to find it. I also fully concur with his assessment of where constant badgering and nagging will often lead.

What I’m unsure of is how common that type of behavior actually is. Maybe that is something that goes on in most households. Maybe it’s rare. Oddly enough, being a woman does not give me instant access and understanding of the behaviors of all other women. Where it does occur, I wonder if I should allow for the possibility of a sad history behind the Lie Seeker’s quest. It’s possible that she’s been given more than enough reason to be suspicious of his every move. Then again, maybe she is just a control freak. Regardless of the reason, two wrongs never make a right…right?

The thing is... When I think of dishonesty my mind doesn’t jump right to relationships. Has my husband ever lied to me? :::shrugs::: Possibly. Okay, okay, probably. Even so, it’s not something I ever really think about. We are fairly in sync on most issues – including lying. I simply have no need to suspect every word out of his mouth – therefore, I don’t. The children, however, are a separate case entirely.

Kids lie. At least mine do. It drives me bonkers. I see it as a failure on my part. Why haven’t I taught them better? I’ve tried my very best to set a good example in this particular area by being honest with them. When wrongdoing is discovered, I explain that coming forward with the truth will ease the consequence. On the flip side, if all I get are lies, punishments double. The hope is that eventually they will equate lying with losing.

It's taking a while to sink in.

Sunday evening, when it was time for my two youngest to turn in their DSi’s, my son told me that he couldn’t find his – despite the fact that he had it in his hand only 20 minutes before. That’s a trick that he has used in the past. I’ve caught on – even in my old age. I explained the rules again, just so that we were extra clear. If the game systems aren’t turned in on time, they stay locked up for longer. If he truly misplaced his game, then all he had to do was turn it in the moment he did find it. BUT if he was just hiding it somewhere so that he could sneak in a few minutes of extra game play or if he found it and choose to play with it instead of turning it in right away, then he would lose his game playing privileges for a week.

Can you guess which option he chose? Yep, the DSi is currently locked up for a week. When he is “bored” this weekend and wishing he had the game, I’ll have to ask “Was it worth it?”

Getting my children to think about how dishonest words and actions tend to hurt them more in the long run is a goal of mine. The world can be a very unforgiving place. I don't want them to learn the hard way that trust, once broken, it is very difficult to repair. I want them to avoid the fate of The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf. Come on, you all know the story right? The boy lies and lies until he can't find anyone who believes him anymore. My favorite rendition of that tale is in Yo, Hungry Wolf by David Vozar. It's fun to read and the children really like it, but even though they see how the little boy is no longer believed after repeated lies, I wonder if they really understand that it works that way in "real life" too. People will only give you the benefit of doubt for so long. Once you are seen as a "liar," the label sticks. Eventually even your truths will be tainted as potential falsehoods in the eyes of those you have mislead a time too often.

My children haven't reached that stage with me. I don't think they ever will. They are good kids (really! I could bore you all with how brilliant and kind and inspiring they each are, but then we'd be way off subject and well, I wander enough as it is!) I know that sometimes they lie because they don't want to disappoint us. They lie because they want to avoid getting into trouble. I understand those things. Still, I believe that is an important mark of character for a person to own up to what they've done (or haven't done) is spite of the consequences. That I think that I need to reflect on what I've done. You see, before I read Spud's post, I never questioned my heavy handed attitude toward lies. Now I'm I partly to blame? Instead of teaching them how wrong it is to lie, am I teaching them to try and lie better?

I don't have any answers yet and I'm not sure that I'll be changing that particular parenting tactic...but it is something to consider.

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