Since I’m introducing the best parent in the world, it will take a bit of time, so this is Part 1 of the Introduction. Part 2 will appear tomorrow.
Today, I’d like to introduce you to the best parent in the world. In fact, I’d like you to take a moment and meet this person.
YOU are the best parent in the world. For your children. Your children might not think so (! :-)), but it’s true. The best person to parent your children is you.
Your children may or may not believe this, but the real question is: do you believe it? Do you really believe you are the best parent in the world? In all probability, you don’t. And you’re right not to believe it.
No, I’m not contradicting myself. Stay with me while I clarify what I mean.
Like I said at the beginning, I’d like you to take a moment and meet the best parent in the world. Take a moment to meet yourself.
When you tell your child “You shouldn’t lie”, where are you coming from? Do you truly believe that telling lies is undesirable? If you do, you probably don’t tell lies yourself. (I’d like to meet you and shake your hand!) But if you spout these homilies to your child because that is what a ‘good’ parent should do (teach “values” – a highly misused word), then you are coming from a false space.
Think for a bit. Why do you tell your child to tell the truth?
Is it so that you should look good to yourself? So that you should look good to others? When someone says “tell the truth”, your little one immediately pipes up and says, “That’s what my Dad and Mom always tell me.” And the listener will think, “Wow! What wonderful parents!” Come on – pull the other one!
Do you say it because you think you are being a ‘good’ parent by teaching ‘good’ values (there’s that word again!) to your child? Do you think it will help him to become a ‘good’ or ‘better’ person? Do you think it will help him be happier? More successful?
Just for a split second, let’s make believe that you really do believe that your child should tell the truth, and you drum it into his head all the time. Great! Your child is now telling the truth:
“Grandpa, I don’t like eating with you because your false teeth click as you eat and the sound makes me feel sick.”
“Aunty, Mom disliked your present so much that she threw it in the bin.”
“Mr. Policeman, Dad only drank a little bit today because he didn’t want you to catch him while we were driving home.”
How do you react to your child telling the truth?
Little children are literal. They see the entire world in black and white. They won’t understand the fine nuances of truth-telling that you mean to teach them.
What you probably want them to learn is that they should always tell YOU the truth, tell the truth to the world-at-large most of the time, agree verbally or tacitly when you lie (bowing to your superior knowledge of the situation), and keep shut the rest of the time.
Ha! Fat chance! You know it doesn’t play out that way. At least, not when your child is little. With time and experience, and by watching you “tell the truth”, he will learn. But that comes later.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not for a moment suggesting that “telling the truth” is a bad idea. Nor am I endorsing lying.
The point is: What do you mean by the truth? Have you worked out for yourself what “telling the truth” means to you personally?
So meet yourself. What does the truth truly mean to you? Have you bought into some societal concept without believing in it? Are you spending your life trying to live up to beliefs that aren’t really yours? Beliefs that have been thrust on you by society? By your family? By your religion?
When we push ideas and beliefs that are not really ours onto our children – that is when we stop being the best parents in the world to them.
No matter what your belief, no matter how weird, no matter how contrary to popular ‘wisdom’, no matter how much it is against the ‘good values’ accepted by society, when you go against your own beliefs, you stop being the best parent in the world. Yes, I mean your OWN beliefs – the beliefs that you own.
We are all so anxious to look good to others, that we keep jumping through hoops without ever stopping to think if the criteria by which others are judging us mean anything at all to us.
Besides, people are capricious. They are as liable to praise you for an action as they are to criticize you for it. It’s not your action they’re responding to – it’s their mood, their day, how they think and feel at the time of the response that governs their response.
So you’re telling your child she should “tell the truth”. And then she sees you “not telling the truth”.
Are you really surprised when she starts giving you ‘trouble’? When she stops ‘listening’ (obeying is what you mean) to you? How could you be? Be reasonable. You’re an intelligent adult. If you don’t believe in what you say, if you’re not following through, why should she?
If your daughter asks you this question, you fob her off. “You won’t understand.” “It’s different for grown-ups.” “Don’t ask questions.” “Children should tell the truth.” “Good children tell the truth.” “You should tell the truth because I’m your parent and I say so.” “You must learn to tell the truth.” (Why? So she can un-learn it later?)
Of course your relationship with her is going down the tube! She’s lost and confused, and instead of helping her make sense of things, you’re pulling rank.
She’s your kid, and yours is the final word, but know that if there is enough discrepancy often enough between what you say and what you do, she will stop trusting you. And that is a road you’d rather not walk down.