Teaching truthfulness to my children has been an interesting and complicated journey. It seemed so easy at the outset - always tell the truth. But as they got a little older we began to set limits about telling the whole truth, such as when they said to someone, "You're fat." It is the truth, but then we taught them that we don't have to say everything we think even if it is the truth. There are also more tactful ways to tell the truth that don't hurt people's feelings. This gets a bit confusing when you're a little kid.
Then there are surprises. Is it lying when you tell a story to set up a surprise birthday party? It is, but it's for a good cause, right? Well, what about when my son's good cause is so he doesn't get in trouble? Same reasoning, but...
Telling the truth when it's hard to tell is especially tricky, for parents and kids.
When there's shaving cream all over the bathroom andmy son really wants to stay out of trouble because he was just being curious, that is a hard truth to tell.
When my son said he was doing his homework, but was really playing games on the computer and doesn't want to lose his new computer, that is a hard truth to tell.
When we were all looking forward to a trip and realized we couldn't go because we had to spend the money on house repairs, that was a hard truth to tell.
When my Grandma's cancer spread through her body and her choices were to live longer miserably or shorter more comfortably and I had to tell my boys she was going to die soon, that was a heart wrenching truth to tell.
I try to be a good model for truthfulness by admitting when I make mistakes and explaining why we are doing what we're doing. My biggest struggle is not overreacting to my children's mistakes so they will continue to tell the truth, even when it's hard.
Truthfulness in yogic philosophy is called Satya. It pervades every aspect of our lives from answering a simple "How are you?" to owning up to a big mistake. Our children are watching us and learning. No matter what we are saying to them they follow our actions, so we have to act thoughtfully.