Lie to Me (and feel my wrath)
Have you seen the new Fox show ‘Lie to me’? We have watched a couple of episodes and we are HOOKED! They have O.K. stories but they pepper the hour with cool body language science and examples of modern day political leaders. But you don’t care what we watch on Wednesday nights. You want to know how this has anything to do with children and parenting. We think it’s obvious. So make eye contact and do not squint at us.
Lee says: Any person wanting to be a parent better learn to read people. A child lies not because they were taught to, but to protect themselves. It is a survival mechanism akin to a possum playing dead. When asked the question, their little eyes bug out and their body begins to sway as the mendacity reaches new heights. So it ain’t the lying you should focus on but more the fact that they are lying to you.
A parent has a very limited job: keep them safe. How can you do that when they are lying to you? If you don’t know what is going on, your job is hindered and your efficacy is compromised. Paul and I recognized this early on and instituted the Cardinal Rule in our family: If you lie, you get in trouble. If you tell the truth we work it out. We put complete value in honesty regardless of the behavior. Of course this rule is counting on the premise that none of our kids are sociopaths.
This rule is held to at all costs. The kids know if they are asked directly and they lie to us, the punishment will be swift and harsh; think ‘Midnight Express’ without the hash. However, if they are honest, regardless of what they did, we discuss it and come up with a consequence that is less punitive and more educational. I’m sure you’re thinking, ‘Fucking hippies!’ but keep reading.
The ultimate goal to all of this is to have good communication with your kids so that they can come to you with something bigger than they broke something or they received a bad grade. You are priming them for the bombs that every parent dreads but hope that a child can confide in them if the situation arises like sex, drugs or anything that may involve medical professionals and or police. When they do come to you, you need to control your first impulse of having your head spin and be a parent. It’s a reaction that will affect your relationship with your child for the rest of your lives. No pressure.
Paul says: Just because we have the Don’t Lie amnesty, does not mean that we have no rules. Just the contrary. The policy is because we do have rules. Without rules, there would be no reason to lie. Generally speaking, I lay down the rules in large sweeping dictum. I use words like ‘always’, ‘never’, and ‘because I said so’. Since we have a two parent household with both parents on the same page, we can play our roles. With the younger ones it’s not as obvious but with our teen girl, the jobs are defined. It’s hard for me to, in one breath, tell my daughter to stay chaste but be honest with me if she isn’t. So, my responsibility is to remind her of her purity and innocence and that she will always going to be my little girl. If asked, ‘When can I date?’, my response is ‘after you are married’. And questions of sex are addressed by me clutching my chest and feigning a heart attack.
This allows my wife and daughter to roll their eyes at me and laugh while I lay down an unmuddied rule that Daddy does not want his baby fooling around. Now Mommy has something to work with. She can keep honest communication open without seeming to condone a behavior.
So, that’s our little strategy. Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone.
Lee responds: It must suck having a strict hippie and a therapist as parents.