While the holidays are a time of giving, they are also a time of lying. As a matter of fact, you probably taught your child to lie just this last December! Don't believe me? Read on.
Christian Parents Don't Teach Their Kids to Lie … Or Do They?
Lying is usually understood to involve intentional falsehood, but there are also other forms of lying that do not require any words. God recognizes the following "habits" as being part of lying:
Unfulfilled promises (Numbers 23:19). Do you make promises you do not keep, offer to do things on which you then neglect to follow through and change your mind on things you previously agreed to? At the root is the ability to fulfill the promise but the choice to not actively plan and make it happen. While you might excuse it as getting too busy during the holidays or having something else come up, it is actually a sign that you failed to take your word seriously and did not do everything in your power to make a promise come true. God equates this lukewarm attitude toward promises with lying.
Hypocrisy (1 John 2:4). Have you failed to obey one or more of God's commands? During the holiday season it is especially tempting to gossip, vent frustration on children and spouses, react in anger or treat parents with less respect than they deserve. Are you holding on to pet sins of any kind (even though you know better), fail to tithe to the church because of unwise overspending or are acting differently outside of church than you are inside? If so, you are guilty of hypocrisy and your children see it, take note and likely imitate you.
White lies (Ephesians 4:25). Differentiating between white lies and any other kind is as nonsensical as deliberating between white and black magic: both are two sides of the same coin. Whether your lies are white, green or purple with yellow polka dots, they are still lies. Ephesians teaches that we must consciously remove any form of lying from our daily discourse with those around us. If you tell your neighbor that you just love her new sweater (which really looks like something the cat dragged in) and then later comment on it more negatively to your child, spouse or anyone else, you are guilty of lying and your children are watching and hearing.
Do any of these behaviors ring true in your life? If so, you are guilty of lying and -- by extension -- of teaching your children to lie as well.
Well, My Kids Don't Lie
Ah, but they do! New York Magazine (1) quoted an interesting study that showed a number of eye opening trends:
... (Continued below)…
Continued from above.
- 98% of teens from various sample groups reported lying to their parents
- 98% of teens answered on a survey that they valued honesty and trustworthiness as crucial for interpersonal relationships
- Lying is not something a child grow out of with age, but something s/he perfects
- 76% of first graders cheat during a game and 95% lie about it
If you do not catch your child in a lie, it is because a) s/he is too young (lying usually starts at 3 or 4) or b) you do not pay attention to what your child says, does or fails to say and do. A third choice might involve an overly calloused heart on your part, which fails to recognize your own, much less your child's, lying.
Still Think White Lies Are Okay? Think Again!
You may be tempted to still defend your white lies with the notion that they avoid unnecessary conflict and specifically do not contribute to hurt feelings. Yet while you pat yourself on the back for sparing your neighbor's feeling about the sweater, your faith is compromised and your witness to your children is damaged. 1 Timothy 1:19 admonishes the faithful to keep a clear conscience because the willful violation of this sense of right and wrong shipwrecks the faith.
So what should you do when your neighbor shows off her ugly sweater?
- Find something positive to say about the sweater, such as the colors or the patterns, but be careful not to laud the garment in its entirety.
- Redirect; you could say that you really liked the sweater with the cats or the dark green one she wore the other day.
- Excuse your child and take the neighbor aside; in private tell her that you are not fond of the sweater and state one or two reasons. Build her up by pointing out something else about her attire that is attractive.
Children will model their behavior after yours. The preschooler or preteen you are parenting today will become the teen, who will be faced with numerous temptations to lie and conceal. Will the child assuage a bruised conscience with the notion that s/he is protecting you from a truth you couldn't handle? Will s/he rationalize that making a promise and keeping it are two different actions that may not always work in concert? Perhaps the teen will compromise (and shipwreck a budding faith) by arguing that you most likely do not want to learn the truth about any transgression, dire consequence or problem at hand.
Change is Simple
Say what you mean and mean what you say. Give your word carefully, but once you do, follow up and follow through - no matter what. Put God first and eradicate hypocrisy from your daily walk. When (not if) you fail, confess your sin and apologize to your child. When s/he sees you taking honesty seriously, s/he is much more likely to do so as well.
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About Sylvia Cochran
Sylvia Cochran - Christian Parenting Corner and Common Sense Parenting and Parenting By the Book Christian Parenting Book Reviews
Sylvia is a seasoned writer, born and raised in Germany. Having been exposed to a variety of religions and traditions due to travel and study, Sylvia has been a student of the Bible for more than ten years, and has for the last four years taught in small groups about Biblical principles, practical Christianity, Christian parenting, as well as the spiritual use of money. Sylvia also provides Free Online Courses at Suite 101. Sylvia's goal is to provide help and encouragement to raise the next generation of Christ-followers.