The conversation that took place:
“Sanju! Sanju! Come here at once!”, I call out to my daughter urgently.
“What mama?”, she asks.
“Whose hair is this?”, I demand.
She hesitates and then says fearfully, ”I don’t know”.
I turn her head and to my astonishment see unevenly cut flicks on both sides.
I look at her with a mixture of incredulity and anger.
“Sanju, you cut your hair? This is yours!” I shout.
“No, I did not cut my hair. I don’t know”, she retorts stubbornly.
The evidence is right in front of us, and she denies it again. I am livid!
Thoughts race through my head. How can she lie so blatantly? Did she think I am a dodo? And where did she learn to lie?
I start to lecture on how lying is bad and how it will become a habit. If one lies for such small things, what about the bigger issues? I warn her not to do it again and to henceforth tell the truth.
Why children lie?
There could be various reasons:
- Because they are not allowed to tell the truth. If Sanju had told me honestly, “I did IT, I wanted to very much”, she could have been reprimanded for IT. So it may be better not to be honest about her feelings in the future.
- To protect themselves from the blame, scolding and maybe, punishment too.
- To hide from parents something they feel will not be approved of.
- To avoid doing something they do not like such as brushing teeth, washing hands, homework.
- To give into fantasy what they lack in reality- “I scored all 10 goals!”
How can parents encourage honesty in the child?
- Have an open communication, and allow all feelings to be expressed.
- Listen without assumption and judgment. Focus on what happened instead of placing the blame on the child.
- Understand and empathise with the child.
- Communicate that it is ok to make mistakes and all of us do so sometime. Help the child to make amends and take responsibility.
- Have a dialogue and arrive at an amicable solution if there are differing views. Respect one another’s points of view.
- Try being good role models.
Conversation that could have taken place:
Seeing the clumps of hair, I knew they were Sanju’s. I realised that she wanted that cut so badly that she snipped her hair off herself as she thought I would not allow it. Hmm, my daughter is exhibiting her growing individuality.
“Sanju! Can you come here?”, I call out to her.
“You wish to have flicks? You were scared to tell me? ” I ask gently. (understand and empathise)
She hesitates and then answers, ”Yes, I was scared. I wanted it so badly, I asked you that day, but you said it is not a good idea”.(allow feelings to be expressed)
“You thought I would not allow you to?”, I enquire.
“Hmm, you said that my long hair will get spoilt.”, she responds.
“We could have discussed it together, rather than I saying No immediately?”, I say ruefully.
“I was trying to tell you, but …”, she says.
“But I did not listen to you. I am so sorry Sanju.”,I apologise.
“Ma, by cutting my own hair, I have really spoilt it. I am sorry.”, she says sadly. (taking responsibility)
“Hmm, we could go to the salon and ask the stylist what you want and she can recommend something?”, I suggest.
“Oh, Yes, thank you”, she says in delight.
“Ok. You know Sanju, I love your long hair the way it is, It would be sad to cut it.”, I ponder.
“I like my long hair but it is so boring. I wanted something different.”, Sanju says emphatically. (communicating and respecting differing views)
“Hmm, you are growing up fast!!” I look at her with pure joy and stayed with that feeling for the rest of the day!
Children do learn
Confronting and forcing children to speak the truth will only get them to become defensive and cover-up the issue. Listening without assumption and judgment with the intention to understand and connect will get them to open up and share their feelings. When we parents create an environment that is conducive for a two-way communication, children will have the courage to speak the truth and take responsibility for their actions. They will learn honesty.