Being a parent is an educational experience. I’ve mentioned before that helping others is critical to emotional development and growth. Parenting is, by necessity, a chance to instill integrity in your child.
Honesty is an issue that’s arisen lately with one of my kids. It’s frustrating and humbling all at the same time. When I explain to him why honesty and integrity are important, and why dishonesty is so damaging, I’m forced to take an honest look at myself.
Let’s clear the air – this won’t be a post about how to teach your kids to not lie. There are plenty of resources online to give you tips on how to raise honest children. I’m not a doctor. I’m just marveling in the experience of it all.
“When I go home, I try to raise my children with honesty and integrity and teach them to take care of the world and of each other.”Kevin Bacon
We Lie to Control Outcomes
Kids lie to parents to provide the view they are without fault. They do this because it makes their life easier. The stronger the sense that they are blameless, the less likely they are to be scrutinized for the choices they make. They lie to their friends to present a version of self that is what they want to be.
I can’t say that I’m really any better. The only difference between my kid and myself is the decades of experience in dealing with the consequences of dishonesty.
The natural results of my dishonesty have a lingering sting. I’ve lost friends, jobs, relationships, and so much more. The guilt of those losses is entirely unnecessary. Certainly, nothing lasts forever. Letting people and places go with a clear conscious is much better than doing the same with regret.
The memory of all that pain motivates my desire to help my kids learn integrity. It provides a sense of urgency that a less challenged life wouldn’t. I do not want my kids to suffer. I would go to great lengths to keep them from suffering needlessly.
Integrity Has Consequences
Like anything else in life, a clear conscious doesn’t come without cost. There are opportunities that will be missed; friendships that will end. I will experience the fear of missing out.
When I was single, I had a choice about what I would tell women I would potentially date. Being a father to three isn’t appealing to most women. I knew that. Telling them the truth meant there were a number of relationships that were closed to me.
Telling them a lie might have allowed me to enjoy dating if only for a little while. However, the truth is inevitable. At some point, the truth is always revealed. By lying in the beginning, it ensures my potential partner will later leave in anger and disgust.
I have had to tell Ashley some uncomfortable truths. My faith is tested the most in these moments. However, in those moments, my faith is almost always also proven.
The Truth Will Set You Free
The truth is the result of the universe’s plan. The universe is far more powerful and wise than I am. I believe in it. I have faith in it. Dishonesty is the first step in thinking that I am God.
The truth is the present reality free of my understanding of it. I have no ability to change what the truth is. While I can adjust my behavior to better help the truth reflect what I wish it was, I cannot change what is true. The measure of my integrity is a reflection of how transparent in telling the truth.
Living in the truth frees me to allow my higher power to pave a path which I could never pave for myself. The biggest obstacle to happiness is self.
So, Parenting …
So, the strategy for the kids is to simplify things. They will have very limited access to the internet. Social media is explicitly excluded from their lives. I’ve cut the cord on social media myself. If I can’t handle it, I can’t expect them to.
Every day, we’re listening to podcasts about the motivations and consequences of lying. Each day, they take notes and we talk about it. In doing all of this, I’m hoping to enforce that less is more, and integrity is everything.