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Monday, February 13, 2006

Being Honest with Our Children

One of the irksome things that some parents do when they want children to listen is to lie to them. Here are some examples:
  • Oh look! You just broke this so you can't play with this anymore (when toy is not broken, but parent simply wants child to stop playing).
  • Sweetie, don't go over there or else some really bad people will snatch you away.
  • I'll buy you this toy for Christmas, let's just go home now (assuming they'll forget).
  • If you don't come with me right now, I won't love you anymore.
The truth is, it's easier to lie to them than to say no to them. I was actually told on several occasions to lie to my kids so to save myself the time and energy in disciplining them when they don't obey. After all, my kids are young and what do they know? They won't know that you lied. It is lot quicker to get them to listen.

Evers and I don't lie to our children. We tell it as it is. A "no" is a "no" and if the child cannot accept it, then correction is needed. No bribing, no lying, no coercing. Why don't we take the easier route? First off, we believe lying to our children is wrong even when it is a little lie.

Second, we believe that God placed us parents as authorities over our children. This means we have God's blessing to exercise our authority over them. Lest someone misunderstand this, this doesn't mean we are cruel when exercising our authority. Let's be reminded of Ephesians 6:4 "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." Our authority over our children is to be exercised with the most humble and servant-hearted love.

Lastly, we want to develop a lasting and meaningful relationship with our children. Lying to them will only sabotage this trust relationship. Too often adults underestimate a child's ability to understand. They know very quickly that what you said isn't true and eventually they learn not to trust you anymore. Think about your children's future as well. Will they have lifelong emotional scars from constant (or even occasional) dishonesty from you? Once you start lying to get children to obey, it is not easy to stop, and eventually you develop a habit to keep it up. You may think lifelong emotional scars is a bit farfetched. It is not. I know people who are still scarred from this parenting technique and can still remember every single incident.

What then? Rather than invent lies to manipulate (is there any better word?) our children, let us instead be frank and firm with them. Our goal is not simply getting them to behave in a certain fashion, but to mold their character and shepherd their souls. I think speaking the truth in love is a good place to start.