Saturday, November 27, 2010

Truthfulness, Revisited

Satya, truthfulness, has continued to be a theme in our lives throughout the fall. It seems to come up on a daily basis.

I answered a Mama Drama question a couple of weeks ago about lying. In the process I looked at current research and found some new perspectives to consider when supporting honesty with my children. There are two that had the biggest impact on me and have influenced my interactions with my children over the past couple of weeks, for the better I might add!

The first is that our children's primary motivation for lying is to make us happy. Huh? you might ask yourself - I did the same. Children mistakenly believe their parents will be happier if they pretend they didn't do something wrong than if they tell the truth about their mistake. As parents we have to impress upon our children that telling the truth will make us happier than if they hadn't made the mistake. I have practiced this several times over the past few weeks when big issues have come up for my sons and have been stunned at its effectiveness.

The second ah-ha in my research was how we often set our children up to lie through the questions we ask and the demeanor we use to deliver the question. Because they want to make us happy when we ask, "Did you...?" they immediately say no. As parents we think we want to give our kids a chance to come clean on their own without accusations, but sometimes we just have to call it like we see it. For example, last night I came downstairs to find the foil on the sweet potato pie pulled back and a finger print in the pie. I knew which child had the opportunity in the kitchen on their own, so went to address him.

I calmly entered his room and stated, "You put your finger in the pie, right?" Without hesitation, surprisingly, he answered, "Yeeeessss, but it was soooo good!" I gushed appreciation for him telling me the truth right away and said we'd address any consequences about the pie in the morning. He was happy, I was happy, all was good, no lying. Practice was paying off.

Previously, I might have asked my sons if they had done it in a stern tone. That usually led to a denial, even when the evidence was all over their faces.

I have never wanted my children's behavior to be about making me happy. I always want them to feel happy internally about making the right choice. Given what the research states and my sons' responses, I believe I will have to make an exception in the case of lying.

Parenting is always a journey of growth and self-reflection, svadhyaya.  I am sure my dear boys will provide me with many opportunities to hone my skills and practice tapas, self-discipline, in managing my responses. I hope to return the favor with opportunities for them to practice satya, truthfulness, as often as possible.


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