One value that my family has set forth is truthfulness. We told our son Jonah from the time he could talk that it is a family rule that we are always completely honest with each other. Now, children naturally want to ‘protect’ themselves from punishment when they have done something wrong, and one easy way to do that is to lie. So, we told Jonah that we expect him to make mistakes… We all do… We may not always be especially happy when he does make a mistake, but we explained that the consequences of that mistake will be far, far worse if he lies about it. Our hope is that he will learn to take responsibility for his actions, and to learn to carefully consider the possible consequences of his actions before he acts, since he knows we expect him to always tell us the truth about it.
So far, this strategy has worked beautifully. Today, Jonah turned 12 years old and I honestly don’t think he has ever told us an outright lie.
Two fun examples of how this rule has played out, though, I’d like to share, one of which actually includes a LIE that we told him! You guessed it… Santa Claus! We did abide by our culture’s story about Santa, which we knew was risky, given our rule about truthfulness. But, as we expected, Jonah did eventually ask us outright about Santa. And, when he did, he said, “I’m going to ask you a question, and I want you to tell me the truth.” He was eight… Far younger than we would have liked, but we told him the truth, and after being a little disappointed, he moved on.
And, for the second story… We also used ‘role play’ as a teaching strategy when Jonah was younger to help him prepare to deal with difficult situations. So, when he was about four, a child at his day care had hit him several times, but Jonah didn’t always let his teacher know. We told him it was crucial that he do that, and so we practiced a scenario where he would tell his teacher if he got hit again. Jonah played himself, I played the teacher, “Ms. Amy,” and his other parent Tracy played the other child, ”Jason.” It went something like this… (Remember, Jonah believes in truthfulness, and we learned he believed everyone else did too…) Jason hits Jonah. Jonah comes to his ‘teacher’ (me.) “Ms. Amy, Jason hit me.” I approach “Jason.” “Jason, Jonah says you hit him.” (Tracy as Jason shakes her head “no.”) Jonah, with a genuinely puzzled look on his face, replies, “Well, I didn’t hit myself…”
Positive Parenting Strategies, including role play: http://www.parentrx.com/strategies/