Monday, February 15, 2010

Intentional Parenting - Part 3; Intentionally Truthful

**Thanks for joining me in my Intentional Parenting series. From now on it will run EVERY Monday until I run out of things to say.**

It was long past Maggie’s bedtime when she called out to me through choking sobs. “Mom? Could you please come in here?”

Oh my goodness, what could be wrong? I wondered as I rushed to her bedside. “What’s the matter, honey? Are you sick?”

“No, I’m not sick. I have to tell you something.”

“O.K. Tell me. What’s making you cry so hard?” I asked.

“Today during library time Mrs. M got mad at me for talking.”

“Oh, honey, that’s O.K. I know how it is when kids get talking. Sometimes the teacher just has to get you to quiet down. Don’t worry about that.” I was getting kind of confused because Maggie’s story and her frenetic sobbing didn’t seem to match up.

“No, that’s not the bad part,” Maggie cried. “Later on, Mrs. M came around to see what books we had checked out of the library and I told her the names of two books. But, Mom . . . I lied!” And a fresh round of sobs choked out Maggie’s words. “One of the books was a Captain Underpants book, but I didn’t tell her the truth.”

At that point I just about burst out laughing because Maggie and I had had a few discussions about Captain Underpants books. Not only is the name ridiculous, but I also felt like Maggie’s reading level was well beyond the reading level of that series and I wanted her to challenge herself a little more. (Now, before you send me comments touting the praise of the CU books, remember that arguing the pros or cons of the Captain isn’t the purpose of my post here.)

The book itself wasn’t the source of Maggie’s sobbing—my daughter knew how I felt about lying, and at that moment she was being convicted of her sin in that area. I could not have been more pleased.

“So, what do you think you should do?” I asked.

“I need to tell Mrs. M the truth.”

Maggie and I talked for a while about telling the truth and confessing our sin and how she would approach the situation with her teacher. The next day, about 15 minutes before the start of school, Maggie and I walked hand-in-hand toward her classroom. Thankfully we caught her teacher just as she was walking into the room and a few minutes before the flurry of the day's activites began. She sat patiently with us as Maggie, through more sobbing and tears, confessed her lie to her teacher.

And then the most amazing thing happened. Her teacher tenderly forgave her. (Can I just say thank God for Christian teachers in the public school system?) That dear woman, under whom all three of my girls had the opportunity to learn, blessed my daughter in such an amazing way that day, just by forgiving her.

That moment was so difficult for Maggie (although, let me just tell you right here and now that this wasn’t the first time I had had to accompany a child to a confession to a teacher *ahem*), and yet it became such a step of maturity for her. Her teacher’s reaction had so much to do with it. It was such a beautiful, tangible picture of what our Heavenly Father does for us when we confess our sins to Him that I was left crying myself—so thankful for a teacher who “got it” and freely forgave my daughter.

And you know what? Maggie practically floated out of the room after our little talk with her teacher. She beamed. So happy to have received forgiveness. I have a feeling that because of that, Maggie won't hesitate to apologize for her wrongs in the future. And I have a feeling she'll think twice before she tells a lie to a teacher!

Why Truthfulness Matters
I learned something about myself when I became a parent—I hate lying. Any form of it. Untruthfulness just sits wrong with me. From the time my girls were very young and began to experiment with lying, they began to see that it was one of those unpardonable sins in my book. They’d get disciplined for lying every single time.

God hates lying too. Check out what He says about it:

“The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.” Proverbs

“Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value a man who speaks
the truth.” Proverbs 16:13

“These are the things you are to do: Speak
the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts.”
Zechariah 8:16

So why does it matter that your children tell the truth?

First, because God commands it. Remember the 10 Commandments? Don’t bear false witness against your neighbor? That’s lying.

Second, because your child’s reputation is at stake. I would venture to say that Maggie’s teacher probably felt like she could trust her after that day. On the flip side, I know kids who regularly tell lies—even of the white variety—and honestly, I take what they tell me with a grain of salt. In the back of my mind I often wonder, “Really? Is that the truth?” Don’t you want your children to be known for being trustworthy and honest?

Third, truthfulness matters because it’s right. It used to be that a person’s word was his bond, but that’s no longer the case. We live in a world of lawyers and lawsuits and courts trying to determine whose word can we trust. How much more will our children stand out in this world if they become adults who are truthful? But the time to instill truthfulness in a person is when they are young—it becomes much harder to break the lying habit when kids get older.

How Do You Instill a Sense of Truthfulness?
Insist on it. Every time. If you catch your children in a lie, take them aside and talk about it. Discipline it. Take care of it before it gets to be too big.

My girls knew that if they told a lie there would be consequences—every single time. They knew that I would not mess around with lying because it is so important to their character. I was intentional about truthfulness from the very beginning.

But here’s the interesting thing I’ve found . . . because I took truthfulness so seriously and punished lying so consistently when they were young, my girls have grown into honest young women whom I know I can trust to tell the truth. They are women whom their teachers can trust, whom their college roommates can trust, and, most importantly, whom their future spouses can trust.

As they become trustworthy women, God can entrust them with so much more than if they were women with lying lips. And that’s ultimately what we should all want.

So I want to encourage you today to intentionally break the lying habit. If it's a problem in your life, stop it. Today. And if you see your kids venturing down that road, save them from the inevitable crash that will result. Don't allow even "white lies" (they're still lies!) to cross their lips. Insist on truthfulness all the time.

Now talk. How do you combat lying in your kids? What do you think about those little white lies?

If you'd like to read parts 1 and 2 of this series, click here and here.



Mary @ Giving Up On Perfect said...

I've already started thinking about this, because Annalyn likes to tell stories. And sometimes those stories aren't true - and she knows it. It's amazing how young our tendency to lie begins! (Although I've also realized that it's hard for little kids to understand the difference between lying and make believe, so I know we'll have to be so careful in this area.)

Sweetie! said...

This is such powerful Truth...and I am so tickled that Joy has shared your precious heart with me!

Musings of a Housewife said...

Oh how I need advice on this one. I have a child who routinely lies and I have no idea whether I can trust him or not. I've told him this, and I can tell it saddens him, but he does it time and again. Ugh.

Sandy Cooper said...

This is something I am very intentional about as well. The truth is very important to me, for all the reasons you mentioned.