Thanks Lisa-Jo Baker for today’s Five Minute Friday: truth.
This is a tricky one!
Truth. It’s a funny word. We hold it in such high regard, yet we all seem to not only attach different meanings to it, but also adapt those meaning to suite our current needs. Everyone’s truth is indeed different, especially when it’s so open to being edited!
So does truth really exist and, if it doesn’t, should we place such a high value on it, especially with our children?
‘Tell the truth.’ we demand when they argue and we want to get to the bottom of who smashed the window, or drew on the wall. They tell us and yet we insist they’re lying. We question, we interrogate, pick holes in their story as though they’re a criminal under oath rather than a willful child. Whatever they tell us, we punish them anyway. We know, we tell ourselves as parents, what happened. We were children once. So where is the incentive for them to tell us the truth if we’ve already made up our minds?
Then, not half an hour later, we find ourselves ten minutes late to meet someone.
“Sorry we’re late, the traffic was bad.” We apologise with a little white lie to disguise the fact that we were behind because the toddler wouldn’t eat his lunch, we forgot our coats or were still chatting on the phone when we should have been in the car. The traffic was bad but it shouldn’t really have held us up. So is half-tale really the truth? We give our children such mixed messages, rarely bother to explain and then criticise and punish when they get it wrong.
As adults, lots of us believe it is ok to tell a small untruth to spare someone’s feelings or to avoid an argument. We’ve had those ‘new’ shoes for ages or that new hair cut looks lovely on our friend but when children do the same, we talk to them about liars having their tongues cut out or sing rhymes about their pants being on fire.
We claim to have a greater understanding of truth; we say that we can tell when truth is important and when it is best not to voice it, but is this really true? We want to avoid an argument or spare someone’s feelings but aren’t we just trying to avoid an awkward moment for ourselves? I’m not saying we never should tell white lies, I’m ashamed to say I do it myself all the time.
But I am saying this. Children need modelled behaviour. They copy us, look up to us, we are their shining example. And what they do need is consistency. If we’re going to hold up truth as a beacon of all that is right, surely we owe it to our children to be truthful ourselves or at least be consistent in what we say truth is?
Or, if we are prefer to keep those lines muddied with a few fibs here and there, we should credit children with enough intelligence to explain to them why instead of punishing them when they try to work it out themselves.