One of my daughters lied - to both my wife and I (separately). She lied because she was afraid she would get in trouble. But in our home, lying about the offense usually carries heavier penalties than the offense itself.
Let's Start At The Beginning
A few months ago, my daughter had been secretly staying up past her bed time to browse the internet and read short stories online on a personal device. My wife or I (I can't remember which one) walked into her room one night to check on something and noticed a blue glow from under quilt.
It was about 11 PM, which was way past her normal bedtime. We immediately removed the device from her room, had a heart-to-heart talk the next day, and handed out an appropriate punishment (no access to her device for an extended period of time).
Pro Parent Tip #1: Remember that there is difference between making a great plan and executing one. Executing the plan is often more challenging as it requires consistency - the day-in, day-out application despite the obstacles. Trust me! There will be obstacles.
Fast Forward To Yesterday Morning
Yesterday, my wife saw my daughter walk out of her room (device in hand) while searching for a charging plugin and chord. It is amazing how easy it is to misplace a plugin or chord! That was a rabbit trail. Let's continue!
Due to the previous encounter, a "mom" alarm sounded. My wife asked a probing question and the response was, "I don't remember."
My daughter's voice was rather calm, but her face expressed some concern. She had just awoken from her sleep (a bit late I might add, but a benefit of home education), but this did not seem to be something related to just waking up. We will get back this point in a moment.
"I don't remember" is a proper response to "What did you eat for breakfast on April 1, 2012?", but it does not work while when parents are asking children questions about something that just happened (unless there is a legitimate case of amnesia or some other medical reason).
My wife came into our bedroom (a bit flustered I might add). She knew our daughter had lied. I calmly got up and asked a second probing question and got the same response "I don't remember."
Pro Parent Tip #2: Promote honest and open communication. It is important that your children know they can talk to you about anything. I want to be one of the first two people (my wife being the other) that my children come to when they need to talk. As they grow older, other people will take that role and responsibility, but for now, I want them to know I am a safe place to share whatever needs to be shared (even when it is hard to share).
Our daughter's face looked even more flustered. She looked nervous. And then I asked, "Are you sure you want to stand by your response?" She sheepishly shook her head NO. I asked her, "What just happened?", and then she said, "I lied."
Being Externally Calm While Battling Internal Chaos
My wife and I deeply love our kiddos, even when they mess up. Life is messy. People are messy. And let's be honest, we sometimes do messed up things. I sometimes do messed up things.
Part of the journey of parenthood is directing kiddos through their journey of adolescence. How we train them when the fail is as equally important as how we train them to succeed. And as hard as it is, sometimes we have to open the doors so that our kiddos can learn from our own failures.
Even writing this post, my heart hurts a bit. I am disappointed (mostly because of the lying) and unsettled. I believe my wife and I handled ourselves in a calm and collected manner, but there is an internal struggle. Our tried to hide something from us that she knew she shouldn't do and then lied when confronted.
Pro Parent Tip #3: Parents must be ready to equip and guide our children, but I caution "forced obedience." Smart decisions and living a "good life" is a long-term play, one that I hope extends past the time my kiddos live under my roof.
Helping our children understand there are real consequences to every decision is a valuable lesson.
My daughter has consistently been waking up late (because she was staying up late). My wife and I had attributed her late mornings to some recent sickness and growth spurts, but it appears we were wrong (at least in part).
My daughter has been a bit standoffish as of late. Her late night internet use had flowed into daylight hours as well. She was using her device to read non-school related articles throughout the day. We were giving her some space, but it seems like she was trying to distance herself to hide what was happening.
One of my biggest concerns is that her hidden use of the internet might have led to pornography. Fortunately, her unapproved internet time was focused on age appropriate material. I did not want her to see things she could not unsee and set unrealistic, sexual expectations for her future spouse. That would have been a disastrous consequence.
Her hiding (and then lying) has caused my wife and I to lose some trust in her. I hate that! I hate that I will have to question her motives and actions for the time being. That trust can be earned back, but we will all have to work towards that goal.
Pro Parent Tip #4: Failure is a great teaching opportunity. Don't let your frustration and anger let you miss a great learning opportunity for you and your child.
Setting An Example
I am not a perfect example for device usage. I MESS UP! Sometimes I let my phone steal from family time. Sometimes I let the draw of likes outshine real hugs and cuddles with my kids.
I mess up because I sometimes have expectations for others that I don't always follow myself. My wife and I realize our faults. And we need to figure out how to overcome some of our personal weaknesses so that we can be better examples.
Hypocrisy: behavior that contradicts what one claims to believe or feel source - Merriam Webster
I don't want my children to reject my example because I am a hypocrite!
Pro Parent Tip #5: Be an example that you would want to follow. Our kiddos soak up so much from just watching the people around them. Strive to be worthy of the title of role model. And sometimes that means letting them see you pull through a difficult challenge. Don't just so the perfect "social media" side of life.
My wife recently told one of our kiddos that she and I did not struggle with "device addiction" when we were kids because personal devices were not readily available. So true! All of the convenience and cool functionality of handheld devices must be weighed against the downfalls.
One of my challenges as a parent is to equip and train my children to appropriate use a tool that I am still learning how to balance myself.
I greatly appreciate how technology allows me to communicate with people across the world, learn new information, and write/post my new articles. I just don't want it to rob me (or my family) of the human experience that takes place in our home. Grateful for the screen and what it brings. Also grateful for the hugs, laughs, and conversation that take place face-to-face.
Thanks for stopping by!