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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Rant: Who ever decided lying to kids was a good idea?

You know one of the things I really love about the Catholic church? Its stance that life is life, and that people are to be respected and cherished, from conception to natural death.

Inherent in that teaching is that children are human beings too. I remember as a child, how devastated I was each time I figured out that my parents and other important adults in my life - the same ones who always maintained that lying was bad and I shouldn't do it - had lied to me. How I was more crushed every time it happened. I'm not saying they made a steady habit out of it. Or that the lies were 'big.' But it happened enough times to really damage my trust in/respect for them (and consequently adults in general).

I had to call my mom on this at least twice while she was here. We were in the grocery store at the Deli counter. Sammy, feeling a little braver and more exploratory these days, started to walk behind the counter. Before I could say "Sammy, come back please!" (which works 90% of the time with him) she said "UNNNNNH! Don't got back there. They'll put you to work!" (Never mind the fact that he's now going to get the idea that work is a bad thing. That's another rant for another day.) Another time Sammy wanted to sit on one of coin-eating rides outside of Toys-R-Us. She asked if I wanted her to put money in. I said "No, right now he's just happy to sit on it. He doesn't need to know it moves." She said, "You can just tell him it only works when MawMaw is here."

"Don't make that ugly face. One day your face will freeze like that and you'll look like that for the rest of your life."
"Eat your vegetables so you can grow up to be strong like Popeye."
"Yes, of course there's an Easter bunny! It's just a strange coincidence that he writes just like I do."

I asked her what made her think it was OK to lie to kids. Her reply was something along the lines of "That's what we always did. We didn't think they knew any better."

Well, guess what, people! Kids are humans too, created intelligent by God and every bit as deserving of your love, respect, and TRUTHFULNESS as any adult in your life. They are not stupid, they are ignorant. You are not doing them any favors (and indeed are doing them harm) teaching them untruths about the world they live in and the way it works. Especially if right along side that you are trying to teach them that lying is bad.

Think about it.


Mommy to Ander and Wife to Box said...

"Kids are humans too, created intelligent by God and every bit as deserving of your love, respect, and TRUTHFULNESS as any adult in your life." -SC

Well said. My mom does the exact same thing, and it never annoyed me before, but thanks, 'cause now it will. JJ. ;)

For the most part, I agree with what you said (not like you care if I agree), but I would say that I would lie to my husband about things that made things better for him, so I don't hold the view that all lying is wrong. (Aside - I actually suck at lying. I'm simply bad at it, and the truth is always written all over my face, so I have quite the reputation for telling the truth, even when it needs to not be told. {blushing}) For example, if he asked if I wanted to go out to dinner, and I really didn't want to, but I knew he desparately needed a night out, I would say "yes," because I know if I said, "no, but I'll go for your sake" he wouldn't go along with that. Also, I'd lie about a surprise party.

I guess that same philosophy leads me to telling stories (that I wouldn't term "lies," but others probably would) about Santa and the Easter Bunny. I liked something we did at St. George School. Around Christmas, we would learn about the real St. Nicholas and then discuss with the middle schoolers how the idea of Santa came from St. Nicholas. It was a positive connection.

So I guess I disagree with always using truthfulness with kids. But, I do agree that I must treat them with respect and like humans. I also want to foster their imaginations, but not to the extent that I "fool" them. Does that make sense?

I guess I put more value on fun and imagination that I do on truth, except as truth is used to describe holiness and love. It never even occurred to me until now that Jesus would be bothered by the idea of a little kid believing in the Easter Bunny, and quite honestly, I think Jesus would find it a fun game to work the imagination of his youngest creatures. A parable of sorts.

I hope you mind me thinking this out on your blog. You sparked my mind into considering my viewpoint on this, so I thought I'd share.

Mathochist said...

"I have quite the reputation for telling the truth, even when it needs to not be told"

I remember that about you from way back... ;) And have always appreciated it (though I know not everyone does). Feel free to think here any time. ;)

I totally disagree about lying to the husband - IMO that's the 1 person on earth you should NEVER be dishonest to. In a case like that I would send him off by himself or with buddies, try to order takeout as a compromise, or give him a raincheck for as soon as I felt better. I see your point about the surprise party thought, and am definitely guilty of lying to keep those secret.

There are some people who consider teaching kids about Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy outright lies. I am not sure where I fall in this camp. Right now I'm leaning toward what my friend Brandy has done with her kids - the first time the kids ask, tell them the truth, but also that we will all "play along" with kids who believe and adults who expect us to believe.

What I was referring to in my post was the time I was 7 or 8, when my friend (who was known for lying sometimes) swore to me that there was no Easter Bunny, that it was just my parents. So I tried an experiment to figure it out for msyelf. The night before Easter I spent the night at my grandmother's. Right before bedtime I wrote a note to the Easter Bunny explaining how much all I really wanted for Easter was a baby bunny. The next morning there was no bunny, but a note in my grandmother's handwriting saying "Sorry, Stacy, I ran out of baby bunnies. (signed) the Easter Bunny." I asked her if there was really an Easter Bunny, why was the note in her handwriting? At this point she should have fessed up. Instead she continued to assure me that the Easter Bunny existed. This was the person I trusted most in the world, and it really devastated me to be lied to by her.

"I also want to foster their imaginations, but not to the extent that I 'fool' them"

That makes perfect sense. My biggest problem with most of the lies I was told (and again, there weren't a ton of them... but the ones there were, were upsetting to me), once I found out they were untrue, I felt like the world's biggest dupe. It really humiliated me (if only in the privacy of my own mind). I just think that no child should be made to feel like that by people (s)he trusts!

Erin D. said...

I only have a minute but I wanted to say that I would be so sad if my mom had told us the 'truth' about Santa. We were raised Catholic and Christmas was definitely about Jesus but the 'magic' of the whole Santa thing made it fun. And forgive my lack of clarity as I have to leave in two minutes! But I think the faith of believing in God or Jesus or your 'higher power' of choice can be similar to believing in Santa. It doesn't always make sense but it's something your heart wants to believe even when your head doesn't always...

I was a smart kid and everything that we 'learned' about Santa just wasn't logical, but I couldn't deny his existence in my head because I also knew there was no way my parents could afford to buy all those presents! Eventually, when I was 11 or 12 I started to catch on--Santa and my mom had the same handwriting, but I just didn't want to verbalize my lack of 'belief' in him for if I did, he might go away! Oddly, we 'knew' and 'verbalized' our lack in belief of the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy earlier in life but there was just something about Santa. To this day my mom will not 'admit' that there is no Santa, because there is. When you're little he is the fat man in the red suit but when you are older, he IS the spirit of giving and faith. Garry has learned that he needs to 'be' Santa for me at Christmas because being away from my family at Christmas is very sad for me, so it is like he is playing the part that my family used to play and that helps just a little bit.

I have something I'm cross-stitching for my grandma which is a picture of baby Jesus in the manger, with Santa kneeling in prayer to him--I can't even describe the feelings it evokes but I love it.

Anyway, I've typed way too long and I have to go, but I know there are some parents who think that ANY lie is wrong, including the 'fantasy' ones. But even if my mom WOULD have ever admitted to being Santa, I would not have been upset and considered her a liar. I'm just happy we got to feel the magic all those years.

But everyone's different...

:)Erin (loving your whole blog and wishing I could think of stuff to write about!)