Don’t lie to your children
“Children learn more from what you are than what you teach.”
~W.E.B Du Bols
We teach our children to live by the Golden Rule – do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.
Yet, some parents tend not to apply this principle when approaching honesty.
The truth hurts. There’s no denying that.
But, lying to our children to shield them from being hurt only does more harm than good.
I love my parents dearly and they did a great job raising me and my siblings.
But, they had their flaws.
No parent is perfect; flaws are a natural part of who we are as human beings.
I’ve made my own mistakes with my kids.
But, one of my parents’ biggest flaws resulted in my trust in them diminishing.
My parents were the first people in my life who taught me about trust.
Yet, they often promised me things and wouldn’t deliver.
I remember being told I could go to a sleepover at my friend’s house if I did well in school. Sleepovers weren’t allowed in our family, but that was the promise my parents made.
Naturally, I was excited! Sleepover day came and my mom told me I couldn’t go. I was heartbroken and learned never to trust the promises either she or dad made to me.
There were also times when I asked them questions about adult matters like sex. They would lie to me and give me their own version of the truth.
It was their way of protecting me, but I viewed it as lying.
So, I stopped feeling comfortable sharing certain things with them and stopped asking for permission to do some things I enjoyed.
That experience influenced me to raise my kids differently.
I’ve written this article so that I can share the strategies I’ve used to be honest and open with my kids so that they trust me.
Have Open Conversations About Relevant Issues
My divorce impacted my kids. It devastated me, but I also had to remember that it devastated them too.
I visited the courthouse to discuss divorce-related matters several times during that 13-year period. There were matters, such as alimony payments, that the kids didn’t need to directly know about.
But, there were matters, such as visitation, that directly concerned them. I discussed these matters with them.
The time also came when I had to discuss their dad’s lack of financial support with them. They each wanted something I couldn’t afford at the time. So, I sat them down and calmly explained it like this…
“Remember when mommy went to court last month? The judge was working with me and your dad to get your dad to help pay for stuff. The court hasn’t decided yet though so I can only afford X for now.”
There are three things I want you to notice.
- I never bashed their father
- The facts were presented to them in a way they understood
- I provided the most plausible solution.
Involve Them In The Process
I never hid our financial situation from my kids. We were living off of one income and I had just started pursuing my own business full-time. So, things were difficult.
They knew the reality and I involved them as much as possible. For instance, they created the grocery list and helped me search for coupons and deals when it was time to go grocery shopping.
This experience helped them learn financial responsibility. It also helped them understand the difference between needs and wants.
Give Them A Voice
There’s a common saying that goes something like this, “Children should be seen and not heard.” In other words, children shouldn’t have a voice.
That’s ignorance. Children should be allowed to voice their opinions in a respectful manner. Oftentimes, they just need to feel heard and feel like someone is listening to them.
I allowed my kids to write letters to the attorneys during the divorce. They could write whatever they wanted to in those letters and express their true feelings. Pouring their feelings onto those papers mattered to them.
My kids also know they can come to me to discuss anything. I have an open door policy. They know they have a voice in my home.
It’s About The Kids, Not You
The responsibility of raising a child isn’t easy. Sometimes, the burden seems heavy and we can become heavily focused on how we feel.
Your feelings are important and should be acknowledged. But, they shouldn’t result in your kids’ feelings being pushed aside. Your children want honesty; they want the peace and security that comes from honesty.
Remove yourself from the situation and make it about them. They often don’t see things like you do and are coping with things in their own ways.
They’ll make up things if you’re not honest with them. Essentially, you become the villain and that’s not healthy for your parent-child relationship.
Lying to your kids impacts your relationship with them. It’s hard to be completely honest with your kids because you want to protect them. I understand that.
But, they’ll respect and trust you more when you’re honest with them. Stop lying, give them a voice, and involve them as much as possible.
They’ll thank you for it.