Yesterday I pulled an epic prank on my kids. I told them that if a police officer came to the house or contacted them to tell him I was with them all day. I’m not good at pranks or lying and so for me to pull one over on them is pretty awesome. The sheer thought of me doing something so terrible that a police officer might come by combined with the idea that I would ever ask my kids to lie for me made the prank crazy. To be honest, I wasn’t sure they would even fall for it and when they did I was just as shocked as they were! All the kids came away laughing and thought it was great.
But, as I was pulling the prank yesterday, I had some second thoughts about it and when it was over, I definitely had some worries. The prank had me thinking about trust, about what we ask our children to do, and what our children are willing to do for us because they trust and love us.
While my children can rest easy knowing that Mike and I don’t lie and don’t break the law (big laws or little ones), other children are not so lucky. Not everyone grows up in a home where honesty is so valued and expected. Many kids are raised in homes where their parents tell lies themselves or encourage their children to lie; where they are told it is ok to bend the rules because they either don’t like the rules or the rules don’t fit their personal needs, wants, or beliefs. There are parents who not only model this behavior but actively encourage it too. They rationalize the reasons they lie and the reasons they encourage their kids to lie. It boggles my mind that there are parents out there like this because it is so contrary to what we teach our children at home.
After I sent the original message to my kids, I thought about these things. I would never want my children to feel like they had to lie for me and yet I also thought about the fact that they love me enough that they just might do it should I ask them to really follow through with lying. And while I wouldn’t ever really put my children in this situation, there are many parents who do on a daily basis. It breaks my heart to think that there are parents who would capitalize on their children’s trust and love for them by asking them to lie, to break rules, or to do something they know deep in their hearts is wrong. What are they teaching their children as they ask and encourage their children to lie to school officials, police officers, ex-spouses, doctors, friends, or other family? If they encourage the little lies, what happens when it comes time for the bigger lies?
If you ask my children what kind of people I despise most in this world, they will tell you “liars”. When you lie to someone you are telling them that you don’t have any respect for them at all. If you are willing to lie to me about a small thing, why should I believe you won’t lie about the big, important things? Lying undermines all trust. Honesty is the best policy and in our household it goes a long way to smoothing over the rocky road that our mistakes often create for us to travel on.
My heart breaks when I think of the children who are asked or encouraged to lie. I don’t know if every adult who does this to a child understands exactly what they are doing to their child… how they are creating moral dilemmas and uncertainty; how they are encouraging deceit; and how they are molding their future lives. If we encourage lying, why then are we surprised when our kids lie to us? If parents encourage their children to lie now about the small things, what will stop them from lying about the bigger, more serious things later? Additionally, if something horrible like abuse happens and someone tells our kids to lie and keep secrets, if they are already conditioned to lie, it’s more likely that they will keep that lie simply because that’s what adults have told them to do and they follow the adults lead.
After this prank I took the time to stop and talk to my children about my concerns for pulling this particular prank on them. While it was funny thinking of them wondering what in the world their squeaky clean mama might have done, I felt guilty for asking them to lie for me. Thankfully because we have taught them the value of honesty, I don’t think they actually would have lied. But who knows, the love a child has for their parents is often so intense that they may do things that are contrary to what they have been taught simply to protect them.
I reassured the kids that I would never ask nor expect them to lie for me. I also reassured them that honesty is the best policy. When you are honest people know you are a person of integrity. They know they can trust you. They can take you at your word and they don’t ever have to wonder if you will be true to what you say and do.
While it is true that there are many dishonest people who will move ahead in life (and it seems like many who have climbed the ladder of “success” engage in a plethora of dishonest practices), there are “successes” that just aren’t worth the price of our souls- and we have to know that when we are dishonest, we are bargaining “success” or “wants” with our very souls.
As parents it is imperative that we model for our children a life of honesty, integrity, sincerity, and virtue. We all look at this world and complain that things need to change- that people need to be nicer; there needs to be less crime; people need to love one another instead of hate each other; and that we need to realize that we are all in this together. But how can we help our children to make a change in this world if we encourage them to lie, even in the little things. Lying is a sin that helps leads to all those other scourges in the world- hate, crime, disharmony and lack of unity.
We have to do better. We have to BE better. If we want to leave a better world for our children, it has to start at home. What we say and do in front of our children affects every aspect of their lives. They will model what they see. If we want them to be virtuous, WE first must be virtuous. Our children take their cues from us.
I know, I know… deep thoughts from a simple prank. Friends, I tell my kids all the time, “You become what you surround yourself with.” I say it so much that one day they will put it on my tombstone I’m sure. And while I tell my kids this in regards to their friends and what they expose themselves to through music, movies, books, and websites, it’s important to know that we are the first people they surround themselves with and model themselves after. Shouldn’t we be what we hope they will become?