I taught my daughter to lie
Raising a young mind can be a challenge every day. I don’t mean the physical kind of challenge of running around trying to get them to study or do their chores, all the while keeping an imaginary scorecard of their meals!
By “challenge” I mean the mental kind that comes with raising a vibrant and inquisitive mind. I am lucky to be the mother of a nine-year-old girl. A curious mind keeps throwing curveballs at me and I have to walk a tightrope knowing full well that the answers will mould and shape her.
Every answer to a “why” will form her opinion, personality and beliefs. We, as parents, always want our kids to think for themselves, but at an early stage, we help them form ideas and ideals about the world they inhabit.
In a recent development, I noticed my “honest to a fault” daughter lying through her teeth. Every question was met with a small and often discernable lie. This was very disturbing to me as a mother. I have always prided myself with imparting the highest moral standards to my child.
Without sounding too pompous I should mention how my little one would own up to everything fearlessly. And now the same not-so little child was brazenly lying her way out of situations.
This drastic change in her worried as well as scared me. I read articles on why kids start to lie and Googled all I could about children and the psychology behind lying. While all the articles treated this as a common habit, none of the reasons mentioned answered why my daughter had picked up this nasty habit.
I blamed the company she kept to the shows she watched on TV. But nothing could explain the change in her personality. After suspecting everyone and blaming everything I chanced upon the reason when my daughter very nonchalantly mentioned,
“You say it’s okay to lie sometimes.”
I was shocked that it was I who had made this very reckless statement. I implored her to tell me more and she related how once she had missed school on account of me having overslept and the next day I mentioned in the leave application that she had been unwell.
It all came back to me as to how she had pointed out that it would be a lie and I told her it was okay to do so – not explaining that a leave letter mentioning her mother had overslept would not go down too well with the school authorities.
This little incident, which most parents can relate to all too well, set a poor example and led her to pick up a bad habit.
I had inadvertently taught her to lie at her convenience. She learnt that day that lying was easy and it helped escape an uncomfortable situation.
Honesty in real life can be tricky and get you into trouble. Lying in certain situations can be the wise thing to do and you are even seen as being “street smart”.
But is it right to teach our kids one thing and practise the opposite in real life? Are the moral science lessons learnt not applicable in the real world? And if they are, then why do we, as adults, act contrary to what we teach?
Having realising this fact, I started noticing a very troubling pattern with everything we teach our kids. We teach them to help a person in need even if it’s a stranger. But in case of a road mishap, do we, as grown-ups, ever stop and help?
The “adult thing to do” is to move on and if, maybe you have a heart, call the cops. But NEVER stop and help because life has taught us that more often than not, the person who helps gets into the most trouble!
The dilemma of being good versus being smart is one that we fight every day. If one lives up to a high moral code of conduct, they are regarded as an oddity, a fossil from another time with no connect to the “real world”.
Why do we have to live in two different worlds? Why can’t the world of our textbooks and childhood stories and the one we inhabit be one?
Today, the impoverished woodcutter, who refused a gold and a silver axe for an iron one, would make headlines as the “dumbest man alive”.
Why do we start teaching our kids “ways of the world” and to be “practical” as opposed to being an “idealist”?
How many times have we talked about the new bride bringing gifts from her parents’ house, knowing all too well that it is an evil practice and a veiled way of accepting dowry.
How many times have we remained seated while the national anthem plays on, all the while teaching our kids to love their country. And yes, I still believe in standing for the national anthem because it might not be the only way, but it is definitely one way of showing my respect to my motherland.
Our words and actions, big or small, are being soaked up by an ever eager and responsive sponge that will form the future generation.
We have to invest time and attention to mould it. We ought to be conscious of what we say and do. And above all, practise what we preach.
This post originally appeared here.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.