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Telling the Truth

Photo by Julia Freeman-Woolpert
Photo by Julia Freeman-Woolpert


It’s easy to teach our kids to tell the truth, but it’s harder to tell the truth to our kids.

My wife told our girls that we’ll answer any question they have with the truth, even if it is uncomfortable for us and them.  We have a lot of reasons for this, but two really are most motivating:

  1. We’d like them to always have the true answer rather than rely on guessing or ignorant friends.
  2. We believe the Bible when it says:  “The Truth will set you free.”  The truth can seem scary at times, but we trust that when given in love and appropriate context that it always wins.

This seemed like a really reasonable commitment when we made it.  However, there are times I’d prefer the easy route.  I  pray for an interruption, a distraction, or that Kelly will step in with her magic so that I don’t have to answer the uncomfortable questions.  I’ve found that it is pretty normal for every parent to have some areas of discussion that aren’t comfortable.  For some it is money, sex, past marriages, miscarriages, job-related stuff, spiritual topics, education, and physical problems.  A few of these areas are hard to talk about because they are hard to capture in a kid-friendly context.  Some topics are tough for us because we might not have come to our own convictions and conclusions.  Other topics are hard to talk about because we know what the right answer is, but we have made a bunch of mistakes in that area and aren’t sure we have “earned” the right to speak about those things.

There are many reasons that I want to excuse myself from certain questions, but my commitment to share the truth with my kids requires me to engage in reality and forces me into discussions.

I’ve found, through “experimentation,”  that taking a short amount of time to gain clarity on a few points before launching into an explanation really helps.  It makes it much easier to tell the truth rather than fumble around and say stupid and regretful things that need to be corrected later.  The following questions also help me balance sharing at an age-appropriate level and not over sharing:

  1. Do I know their question, or am I assuming I know what and why they are asking?
  2. Am I preparing to start a lecture or a conversation?
  3. What nonverbal cues am I wanting to communicate?

I really like the “I Love Lucy” show and how funny it is to watch Lucy and Ricky have these parallel conversations.  Lucy assumes one thing, and Ricky assumes that she is talking about what he is talking about.  Neither one makes any sense to the other.  The problem is that it isn’t funny when I do it.  I find if I don’t take the time to slow down and get clarity at the start of the conversation that every talk about sex or other uncomfortable conversations become “cross-talk” rather than connecting.  Instead of launching into “The Talk”, take a minute and say something like: “I want to do my best to answer your questions; but first, I’d like to know a bit more. Could you tell me what brought this question up and what you aren’t sure about?”

Once I know a bit more about the context, it’s easier for me to answer their specific questions rather than trying to anticipate their needs.

Second, there are fewer chances for lying when you are asking questions rather than being in lecture mode.  Asking questions like: “What do you know already?”, or: “What are some things that you’ve considered?”, give you a chance to get to know their specific needs.  Lectures make your kids not want to talk to you. They also put you in the spot that you have to be the expert and steer the conversation.

Finally, are my words matching up with my body-language, tone, and other nonverbal cues?  I purposely assume a comfortable and open body position when asked an uncomfortable question, even though I feel like doing the opposite.  My goal is to make it easier for my kids to ask the honest question, so that I can give an honest response.  Don’t assume that it is easy for them to ask.  However, you can make it less intimidating and “normalize” it, based on not only what you say with your mouth, but also how you respond with your body language.

Question:  How do you make sure your kids come to you with their questions?[reminder]


3 Comments on “Telling the Truth

  1. Great advise for getting to a common understanding with your child (or anyone else) before launching into a response or answer that may be far off what they are asking about.

    • Thanks for your comments. I keep learning this lesson the hard way when I respond to people without understanding and yes I tend to do it with kids and adults. Slowing down to listen before talking really helps me lesson the foot in the mouth explanations.

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