Honesty is the best policy

Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (April 5th, 2018)


I remember before having my son, my husband and I would have a lot of talks about raising children. We wanted to make sure we were on the same page about our values, parenting styles and ways of communication with our children. Some of the things we talked about then didn’t end up happening at all (my requirement was that our child should never leave the table before all the adults had finished eating. It didn’t take too long for me to realize that it’d take a lot more training and self-control for our child to be able to do that) but some have remained consistent. One thing that I was quite insistent on was about telling our son the truth, all the time. It is my view that being truthful, whether to a child or an adult, is a form of respect to that person and also helps establish trust in the relationship.


So because of those views, my husband and I had early on decided not to tell our son about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy and make up stories about them. We know that many families choose to do so for a variety of reasons, many of them good reasons, but we decided that we wouldn’t. I didn’t want to have my child one day find out that Santa and the Tooth Fairy aren’t real and for him to question what else I told him wasn’t real. So far, telling him the truth about those two characters hasn’t been hard but other things have been harder.


It was much harder to tell him why children in the next room at the medical clinic are crying and how he would have to go inside that room soon. And harder to tell him why I have to leave him in a classroom unaccompanied when he’s crying and wanting me to stay. And it was much harder to tell him that I had to go to work and couldn’t spend the day with him when he was crying and holding me at the door.


Perhaps it would have been easier to say that I needed to “go to the toilet and will be back soon” and hope that he has no concept of time. Or to slip out when he’s not looking so he doesn’t cry. But even though he’s probably still too young to know the difference, I think it creates a sense of insecurity and distrust when we lie to them.


I think one of the hardest times to be ‘honest’ is when setting boundaries. “You can only play for 5 more minutes” but with a little bit of a tantrum, the five minutes becomes ten and then fifteen and so on. Or “no, you can’t have that toy” but after a couple of convincing arguments, the purchased toy ends up in your child’s hands. Being consistent is the hardest thing but if we go back on what we say, then what value do we have in our word? So I made the decision to tell the truth, to be best of my ability, even when it seems like it’s the harder thing to do. I want my child to know that I say what I mean and I mean what I say.


And what I’ve realized is that it takes practice to tell the truth. I’ve needed to get used to explaining things to my son and to figure out how best to tell him the truth in a way that he can developmentally understand. It may be harder now but I’ve already seen the benefits of doing it and I know I will continue to do so.


So when you’re child asks you a question next – think again: how can I honestly tell the truth?



#Character_education#honesty_is_the_best_policy #truth #practice #setting_boundaries

誠實是最好的原則


猶記得在兒子出生前,我和丈夫經常會討論彼此對育兒的看法,以確保我們對教養、溝通方法,以及價值觀皆為一致。有些我們曾討論過的事情最終並沒有實現(例如我曾希望兒子會等待所有大人用完餐後才離開飯桌,但我不久後就發現這需要長時間的訓練和自制力),有些議定好的原則則沒有改變。其中一項我堅持到底的原則就是要對兒子誠實,因為我認為誠實對小孩或大人來說都是最基本的尊重,有助建立互信。


正因為有此想法,我和丈夫早已決定不會跟兒子分享有關聖誕老人及牙仙的傳說。我們深明不少家庭會因各種原因跟孩子分享這些故事,但我們決定了不會這樣做,我不希望兒子長大後發現這些故事是假的,繼而質疑我曾跟他說的一切。至目前為止,我發現要跟孩子分享這兩個故事的真相並不難,更難的反而是其他事情。


例如孩子將要進入診症室,我要告訴他為什麼裡面的孩子正在大哭;或許當他在班房裡大哭、哀求我留下來時,我要告訴他我將要離開;當他在大門前大哭,我要告訴他我要上班,無法陪他玩時,這一切遠遠比跟他說出聖誕老人及牙仙的故事難。


面對這些情景時,或許我可以跟他說:「我先去一去洗手間,很快會回來」,或者在他不留意的時候偷偷離開。然而,我認為說謊不但會令親子關係變得緊張,更會造成彼此間的不信任,即便孩子還未能分清真話和謊話的差別。


我想「誠實」最難之處就是劃下界線,例如你跟孩子說:「你只可以多玩五分鐘。」但當孩子稍發脾氣時,五分鐘就會變成十分鐘、十五分鐘。或許你跟他說:「我不會買這件玩具給你。」但經過多番爭論後,這件玩具最終又會落在孩子手上。要做到態度前後一致並不容易,但若果我們經常推翻自己所說的話,我們所說的還有意義嗎?故此我決定盡我一切能力對孩子誠實,希望孩子明白到父母會言出必行、為自己說的話負責。


我發現說真話的確需要練習,需要習慣就著兒子的理解能力,誠實地講解一切的事情。或許「萬事起頭難」,但我慢慢見證到說真話的好處,並會繼續這樣做。


下一次你的孩子提出問題時,試想一想:我可以如何誠實地向他道出事實的真相?


christine@jems.com.hk

劉馬露明

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