Friday, 24 November 2017

Would I Lie To You? REBLOG from 2011

SATURDAY, 20 AUGUST 2011


Would I lie to you?

***Spoiler Alert***
A debate about the teaching of a subject called "Critical Thinking" in schools on our local home ed group has started me thinking. I would like to be raising children who can think critically as adults and as children and I wonder if it is a case of a skill that has to be retaught because it was encouraged to be unlearned in childhood.
We have never lied about the existence of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy. We decided upon this approach nearly seven years ago now basically because we felt that we just weren't comfortable with dishonesty involved and, in the the way that lying creeps up on you, it was certain to become a spiral of additional lies told to reinforce the original lie. The Smalls do know about these things because of TV, especially Charlie & Lola, story books and relatives. We don't live in a bubble! When they ask me I always turn it back and say "What do you think?"
I asked S, 6, yesterday "Do you believe in Santa Claus?"
"No""Do you believe in the Easter bunny?"
"No"
"Do you believe in the tooth fairy?"
"Half and half""Do you believe there is a god?"
"Of course not, it seems highly unlikely to me that something bigger than ginormous could rest on a cloud."
She knows of course that many of her friends believe in one or all of these things and is respectful and curious about the foundations of their beliefs. Recently she asked a friend who had just been confirmed how she decided which of the gods to believe in.
There is so much trust involved in raising children and for me home ed changes the game. I am interested, do you lie to your children? Often with the best of intentions? Or is trust a two way street in your family? Do you encourage questioning and search out the answers together or are there some things that are just not up for debate?
Back in the 1980s, when I was at school, it was all about a TV show called 'Grange Hill' and a character called Zammo who was experimenting with drugs and so the catchphrase " Just say no" was born. It was marketed to us at schools via a range of posters that said things like "drugs kill." The only the problem is they don't always kill and when the same group of people arrived at university or started going to raves and found that drugs didn't kill, actually looked a lot of fun and some people had evidence to show that in some cases they were safer than alcohol it became hard to know what to believe.
Of course drugs are illegal so the risks are different and no one is earning any tax revenue on their sale and distribution. There are other examples of the population being fed incorrect information the classic for our times must be baby formula milk and especially follow on milks. The ability to think critically about these so called facts is really useful.
I can think of other examples of overriding instincts, Stranger Danger has to be a really good one. I can't help but think that if very young children were not separated from their parents at a young age, often against their instincts, that this would not be such a big deal in later life to relearn the skills of forming impressions and trusting your gut hunch about people.
S has this great book called Philosophy Files which I have blogged about before and it's author Stephen Law has written well about lying to children. The comments at the bottom are especially good.
http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com/2007/11/lying-to-children.html
Of course I am not perfect I do tell little lies , especially in shops, I will say I can't afford it when what I mean really is I don't want to afford that crappy fake chocolate and straight to land fill plastic item inside but really I just want to get out of the shop before I have to carry my children out in the small tiny pieces they have broken down into............ We do talk about it when we are back at home though and have had some good conversations about the power of advertising and marketing and point of sale displays. I have tried too to explain opportunity cost but even some adults don't fully get that.
I recall my parental grandmother telling me with such force not to play with my belly button as it would kill me that with hindsight I have come to conclude that she must have truly believed it to be true herself.
And whilst the GCSE grades that many children are awaiting this week are important really trust is a fundamental. Trust about who to reproduce with, who to go into business with, who to marry is a life skill with a really great significance for future happiness. In our family I hope that trust will be a two way street and that the opportunity to ask questions and think critically will be useful in later life.

19 comments:

kim said...
Were not doing the whole Father Christmas thing,our families think were cruel!I just refuse to lie to my kids,plus i dont want someone else taking credit for the presents!
KP Nuts said...
Outside of lying and being a bit political I do think there is an aspect to the whole Father Christmas mythology that is designed to divorce the real financial cost of toys and presents from the process and therefore encourage debt and guilt and so one because santa operates outside of the regular payment system as it were!

We have never expressly said "Santa is a made up story" we have just never said he is real and left the rest up to them to think on and figure out.
KP Nuts said...
An old college friend of mine has commented on this post via facebook saying how upset her daughter was to accidentally discover the truth about the toothfairy and how her daughters trusts her implicitly - I like this reminds me that the trust of our children is fundamental. As angry as we might be when they mess up we would all surely rather that they come to us in the first instance than compound a bad situtation. I believe we are born to be critcal thinkers but by constantly overiding our children's instincts we undermine this.
Young children ask so many questions about how Santa manages to travel through time, what happens if they don't have a chimney etc etc it is obvious to me that they smell a rat and we do them no favours by denying them their opinions.
freeyourparenting.com said...
What a great post. It's something we've struggled with. We have done the FC/TF thing, but as soon as we were asked if he was real (by our oldest) we said 'no' straight away.

I have a friend whose daughter was really upset when she found out, not because he wasn't real, but because she'd asked her Mum a few times and been fobbed off, so I learnt from her mistake.

Will definitely write a post on this issue for Free Your Parenting at some point :)
MissyLou said...
I found my 'critical thinking' improved when I lived on my own and it was 'sink or swim' - I can't remember ever learning it in school, only in real-world practice. As for the santa clause/easter bunny/toothfairy topic, it all depends on h...ow you look at it. For me it was a fun game my parents played with me and I don't ever feel I was harmed by that game -nor have I ever looked at it as black-n-white as 'lying'. It's part of my culture and its celebrations. I enjoyed every aspect of it, even when I learned my parents were these mythological creatures. It was just as fun hearing all the stories they told me of how they pulled it off. I can still remember the laughing we all did over the stories,and it felt more like a 'rite of passage' for me moving in to a new older age - it was exciting!. I didn't have the experience some may have had that it was 'lying' or 'resentful'...Since Graham had same experience as me, we passed the legacy of the fun and games on to our children - because it is a big part of our culture. I did; however, ''critically think' about it all before jumping in. The pros outweighed the cons for me, especially since my stepson was already enjoying the game before I came along, and would have been difficult to squash it for him just because we chose to raise his newborn siblings differently. And as for the Stranger-Danger topic,two of my children have Aspergers and I can confirm that they would absolutely not, in no way, naturally know and understand the facial and body clues of danger approaching. It is something they need to learn in a much different way than non-Aspergers kids learn it all, and I know first hand that Apsies don't pick these social-skills and life-skills up naturally just from attachment-parenting or a home educating lifestyle.
MissyLou said...
Oh, and also on the who 'giving credit to someone else for the prezzies', I don't relate to that either, because the santa prezzies are cute and quaint small things that fit in a small stocking - with always some nuts, chocolates and an orange and always a gag gift - the children open crack of dawn. The prezzies beneath the tree are always Family presents we exchange with each other later in the day before our family special meal, and the 'big special prezzie' is always something handmade by me - clearly with 'From Mum' on it. What a lovely blog to get my ticker upstairs thinking about it all!
Dave H said...
We don't lie, and there's no Father Christmas around here either. We do have a tooth fairy, but that's because when asked if it was me that swappde tooth for money, I responded with "Would I do something like that?" In a few years I'll be referring back to that one to demonstrate avoidance and how to spot it :-)
KP Nuts said...
Thanks for all the comments everyone.

Of all the doubts, questions and rethinks that parenting three very different children have sent our way the Father Christmas, tooth fairy & Easter bunny is one strategy we have never doubted.

As a home educating mother I am my child's first source of information and I do my very best to try and respect the trust they place in me.

Religion is slightly different of course and I note with real interest just how interested in the various historical approaches S is - Especially in Ancient Eqyptian, Roman & Greek religions and I wonder whether a particular religion had been the focus at the expense of others if she would have developed this interest.
KP Nuts said...
@missylou - Glad to be thought provoking :-)
z barras said...
I think this just goes to show how different everyone's parenting is. We do have Father Christmas/Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy here and I don't feel at all that I am lying to my children, my eldest no longer believes in any of them and my middle two now know that I'm the tooth fairy but they still write me letters when they lose a tooth and I still leave them a special tooth fairy card. I don't believe that I have damaged them at all by keeping up with these figures. I'm pretty sure soon enough that they will all figure it out and I really can't see them being angry about it. I think they are a little like me and just enjoy getting tinto the spirit of it. They know grandparents/aunts etc buy them presents and always say thank you and give hugs. In fact the more I think about it the more I'm pretty sure that the girls, what with all their reading and knowledge probably know already that FC doesn't exsist! I think the joy of parenting, especially being a HE parent is that we are all doing our best and all doing it differently.
KP Nuts said...
I totally agree Zoe - It is interesting that I have been blogging for six months now and this is the first time I have posted about this. (Must be news of Harrods opening their grotto!)

We inherited a relatively blank canvas in that there are no step siblings or cousins in the frame which made our choice much easier.

Also it is interesting that many of the people who have contacted me about this post know us in real life and had no idea!

We don't go around saying "It's not true" but when we are asked questions we just turn them back around.

I like the comment about avoidance Dave H! :-)
Rae said...
I can't believe the timing on this. Only this morning I knew the 'truth' had to come out because my DD has been asking me questions for the past few days about Santa Claus.

We had a lovely conversation in which I expressed how the "spirit" of magic is always there for us no matter what; it's just that a man in a red suit doesn't physically visit and my DD said "Are you worried you've upset me?' to which I said "The only thing I'm worried about is that you'll think I've lied to you for the past x years about this and now you might be wondering if I've lied about anything else.' (we've, ironically, had a relationship built on trust and I've always instilled telling the truth no matter how hard). She reassured me the thought never crossed her mind.

She then looked wide eyed and said "But Christmas must cost you a fortune because YOU'RE buying it all" and finally looked at me and asked "Can you still pretend this Christmas for me, just like you used to?" Once I agreed she hopped off my lap and went out to play happy as could be...

So my fears did not materialise, fortunately, and in a weird way, I feel closer to her now - kind of like *I've* confessed and she's compassionately and lovingly heard that in the same way I hear her stuff. Kwim?

Geesh, parenting eh - certainly doesn't come with a manual LOL!

warm wishes
Rae aka mrsgreen@littlegreenblo
KP Nuts said...
What do you do about tooth fairy / Easter Bunny Rae?
Rae said...
It all came out in the conversation; so now DD knows it's me (SC, tooth fairy, Easter bunny) but that the magic / spirit is still there.

It's her request that we still continue with it all ;) (which I think is kinda cute - I know some ADULTS who do a Christmas stocking for one another on behalf of santa because they still want that magic - doesn't appeal to me *at all* but I think it's great that others get something from it)

it's a bit like the film Polar Express - have you seen that? When the kids ring the bell and it rings for them, but not for the parents, because the kids believe ;)
KP Nuts said...
I'm gonna add that to my lovefilm list right now as I have it open on another tab!!

Thanks for sharing. S told me today she had enjoyed her sleepover at Grandma & Grandie's and was looking forward to holiday more knowing that the tooth fairy wouldn't have any problems finding her ;-) I guess that is why she answered 50/50
Modern Military Mother said...
Just call me Pinocchio. I lie to my kids and I would be lying here if I said I didn't. We had SantaGate last year because Coco Hucknell told Luke Jones that Santa didn't exist and it was your parents. So thinking on my feet I replied that was because 'Coco didn't believe and Santa only comes to those kids that believe and did he really want to risk it.' Then we shot this video in a Blair Witch Style way to try and capture Santa delivering the presents which we missed but we caught his 'ho,ho,ho'.

Daddy goes to war but my kids think of Afghanistan as a word not a place.

Our job is to protect our children, and give them a safe, loving, home life so that they can grow into confident, financially independent (ideally) rational adults - they need to be mature enough to handle the burden of truth and honesty. They have a long time to be adults and a short time to be children. I am phasing the truth in when I think it's appropriate and also using a language my 8 year old can progress.

I grew up carrying the financial anxiety of my parents - I want to protect my children from adult stress for as long as possible and sprinkle some magic and stardust occasionally because it keeps us all young and smiling.
ginger carotte said...
What an interesting read! I love hearing how everyone else parents. We go with the little bit of magic option here purely because both my husband and I have such positive childhood memories of opening our stockings, finding the money under the pillow. I never really believed in the Easter bunny, but it was great fun pretending!! Here's to diversity :)
Katie Pybus said...
Thanks for the comments.

For me it was home education that made the difference. I just knew that I wouldn't be able to answer all of the questions that are fired at me everyday, or at least where back then, whilst remembering to lie about how Santa manages to be everywhere all at once and so on.
firebird2110 said...
Gosh, had I never commented on this before?

I never lied. When A asked "is Santa really real?" I answered "No, he's not really real, but it's fun to pretend isn't it?". She was 2 or 3 at the time. I felt the same as you, that I didn't want that relationship, where she'd grow up not knowing what things I said were true. Grandma and Grandpa still send gifts "From Santa" but she's never been fooled because what odds that Santa would use the exact same wrapping paper as them? ;-) She's good though, she goes along with it when they call her on xmas day because they're in the "magic of childhood" camp.

Same with the tooth fairy, for a while she still wanted to put her tooth under her pillow because it was fun waking up to a coin, even after trying to negotiate for a fee increase the night before :-) Now I just fork over the cash and add the tooth to her tooth pot because hunting for a tiny tooth that's slipped down the side of the bed isn't much fun.

We still do the egg hunt, but she is reasonable and allows me to hide the dratted things around the garden while she has her breakfast in the front room.

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