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Choosing Our Words: Everyday Honesty With Children

By Guest Blogger Alice Romolo

Welcome to the February 2013 Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Honesty

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by Authentic Parenting and Living Peacefully with Children. This month our participants have written about authenticity through honesty. We hope you enjoy this month’s posts and consider joining us next month when we share about Self-Expression and Conformity.


Alice's daughter swinging

My children are not even three years old, yet they have been lied to many times by the adults they know. The lying is not a deliberate manipulation; I believe it is simply about adult convenience more than anything else. The people perpetrating these everyday lies do not believe they are doing wrong, rather they are thoughtlessly perpetuating the general lack of respect for children that is the norm in our society. At its most basic, we can say that people lie to children because they can; because it is easier to say, “There are no more cookies,” then it is to say, “I do not want you to have any more.” Before a certain age, that child has no way of seeing for themselves whether or not it is true.

Alice's twins splashing in a puddle

A favorite phrase, among certain adults I know, almost always starts with “You don’t want…” as in, “You don’t want to touch that,” or “You don’t want to do that.” It makes me crazy to hear this said to my children or anyone else. Clearly, they do “want…” Clearly, you are telling them what YOU don’t want, so why not be honest? You cannot imagine the added level of cooperation you will get with this simple change. And if you add to that a reason, in line with their development and ability to understand, then all the better. This benefits your child in two ways; first it forces you to be more considerate and reasonable, if you need to come up with something better than, “because I said so,” and secondly, your child is learning real reasons for why things are a certain way, rather than learning to follow arbitrary, meaningless rules without question. If you want your children to one day be adults who question things when something doesn’t seem right rather than follow along with the crowd, then it is vital that you allow them to question you now.

Alice's daughter

Another common and equally untruthful phrase used against children is, “You’re ok,” when the child clearly isn’t. Do you really think that telling them that they don’t really feel the way they do is effective? What is the goal, exactly? Again, looking at this with a longterm perspective vs. short term convenience, it makes very little sense to convince an impressionable child to ignore their internal feelings and listen to someone else. Even if that someone else is you–because it won’t always be you; eventually it will be their friends or someone else. This tactic is very effective in producing a child who, after continually being forced to choose between trusting himself or the very influential, all-powerful people he looks up to, trusts neither.

Alice and her daughter

Lying to children insults their intelligence, robs them of their autonomy, and takes advantage of their size and abilities. It erodes their sense of trust in you and people in general. Children do not understand the difference between the lies you feel are trivial and the really important ones that they may eventually tell you.

Alice's daughters playing in leaves

As children, we are programmed to lie to protect ourselves from shame and punishments. When lies regularly become safer than the truth, this does not magically end when we reach adulthood. I have found from experience that this insidious “Lying to protect oneself,” continues to cause problems throughout life, especially with partners and other close relationships. My husband, for example, is eternally unable to admit he is wrong, when I first try to tell him something. At least not without an argument lasting anywhere from five minutes to an hour or more. This has been especially true since embarking on my radical, full term breastfeeding, respectful parenting, and soon-to-be unschooling journey into motherhood. To say this has challenged everything he has ever known would be an understatement. It has challenged me as well, but this was a challenge I chose; he has been dragged, at times kicking and screaming, along for the ride. As a result, there have been many arguments–big ones.Things are improving though; partly through my increasing ability to communicate more effectively, thus making him see reason sooner (because I AM always right, after all) and the fact that I have been making a concerted effort to ensure he feels safe to put his ego aside and really listen. It wasn’t always like this, mostly due to my own significant issues with trust, and unconsciously held beliefs that being right at any cost is more important than peace and happiness. Because to be wrong is death in the eyes of most children; it is shame, loneliness, confusion and pain–emotional and often physical. So I choose my words carefully; I strive for authenticity in all that I do. I am a work in progress, and I don’t lie to my children.

Alice Romolo; mother, daughter, wife; student of life


APBC - Authentic ParentingVisit Living Peacefully with Children and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in next month’s Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon February 22 with all the carnival links.)