Thursday, 24 January 2013

The Truth and Nothing Like the truth

I was interested to hear that a recent study of families in the US and China, suggests that the majority of parents use lying to their children as a tool to reinforce desirable behaviour. I’m not convinced that we needed a study to tell us that. A good many parents will have used the Santa tactic – he won’t visit if you’re naughty – or worse.

Of course, I’ve broken a few hastily made promises along the way, and I suppose that counts as a sort of lie. But generally it’s been the honest path for me. We may not hear what we’d like to hear, but at least it’s the truth. I’m just not a deceitful person, but those little white lies punctuate the relationships many of us have with our children. Invariably told in order to protect, these fibs raise an important question. Who is the real benefactor? Is it the adult, struggling to get out of a awkward spot without squashing those socially acceptable traits that have been so carefully encouraged? Or is it the child, who in all innocence, takes the word of an adult as ‘gospel’ and adjusts course accordingly?

Something to bear in mind about lies, big and small, they have habit of building one on the other with the very real prospect of blossoming into full blown resentment when the child reaches adulthood.
PHILIP LARKIN
PHILIP LARKIN (Photo credit: summonedbyfells)

Although Philip Larkin’s poem, ‘This Be the Verse’, very likely has its roots in his own familial dysfunction – father with Nazi leanings and a highly strung mother – there are certain truths, albeit unpalatable truths, that may resonate with many of us.
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10 comments:

  1. I was brought up in a brutally honest fashion which I have carried on (and which has got me into trouble!). So I don't recall actually being lied to, but there was a certain economy with the truth. When we were little, if we heard a little tune in the distance, my mum would say: 'Listen - it's the music van!' It was years before we twigged that the van sold ice cream!

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    1. Hang on, BB, I'm just writing this down. There, 'Listen - it's the music van!' I'll probably never use it, but...

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  2. I think economy with the truth is one thing, as illustrated in the previous comment, and something I have indulged in! But there is nothing the nettles me more than parents who lie to their children as a matter of habit. It's patronising, and it's lazy. Children are not stupid, and I agree, Martin, it comes back to bite!

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    1. As you rightly say, Ciara, regard children as being stupid at your peril!

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  3. We used to say to the children at school, "If you tell the truth you won't have to remember what you said."

    My one note of caution regarding parental honesty comes again from my experience as a headteacher and dealing with families who had many 'issues'. The problem was they shared too much with very young children, often using them as emotional crutches. Now, I'm not advocating shielding children from some of the harsher realities of life, as they do need to learn that that it's not always rosy. However, I saw some very young children needlessly dragged into adult traumas long before it was necessary to share certain information with them. Sometimes it was the manner of the telling; not taken on one side and quietly explained to, but baring their souls, crying and moaning. I blame X-Factor et al - everyone has to have a sob story to share so that we can all 'feel' it with them. Let the children at least have a few more years as children please.

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    1. Yes, I'm afraid the culture of Jeremy Kyle with X-Factor 'sprinkles', has a lot to answer for. Too many parents air their adult grievances in front of children who can so easily misunderstand or misinterpret what's being said. Certain issues need to be discussed after a self-imposed watershed, or when the kids are out of earshot. I'm probably showing my age.

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  4. at some point in our lives we have all been guilty of telling a lie, no matter how small. it's a human trait that is so part of our makeup. we lied to get out of a situation or to avoid confrontation - even with our kids. whoever had not lied in their entire life, raise your hand. well, I am sorry to say that I think you might be lying.

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    1. Well, I'm keeping my hand firmly by my side, Odette. I've told a lie in my time, but aside from not keeping the few hastily made promises I mentioned, I've always been totally where our daughter is concerned. Even those difficult questions received honest, if sometimes simplified, answers. I would be very suspicious of someone who claimed never to have told an untruth.

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  5. All excellent points, and comments as well. But, taking the lighter side, are you saying there isn't a Santa Claus?????? :)

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    1. Karen, of course there's a Santa Claus...all the time you keep believing. Oops, did I just tell a lie?

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