Thursday, June 28, 2012

Don't Tell Mum

Like a typical parent, I can think of so many hypothetical situations when mean and bad people will do mean and bad things to my kids. 

My way of protecting them from such 'dangers' is to educate them. Whenever an opportunity arises (e.g. a newspaper report of a real incident), I raise their awareness of the existence of such nasties and the possible bad acts that such mean people may commit, and how it may affect them. I ask them questions, answer theirs and even role-play with them if I have to.

I am not worried that by sharing gory details of real mean and bad things that happened to real people in the real world, it will scare the daylight out of them. I simply don't buy the theory we should preserve children's innocence by painting only rosy pictures of their world. I am more pragmatic than that.

Over the years, I have tried to plant in them two concrete beliefs: 
(1) Mum Knows Best (so they should do whatever I ask them to) and
(2) Must Tell Mum Everything 

If someone specifically told them NOT to tell me something, then all the more I should be told. And I always reiterate the importance that they must tell me in full details, the moment they come home.

Well, it is still work-in-progress and not entirely child-proof yet. One boy will always tell me everything, though it can be the moment he gets home or days after. Another boy tends to forget to tell me but I can read him like a book and my intuition almost always alerts me if something isn't right, so I just have to grind him till he spills the beans.

And I did uncover lots of secrets through the boys. 'Secrets' such as the forbidden snacks that they got from grandpa when they were out for strolls and the science experiment they did with daddy in the garden one day, which E told them to keep from me because I would have deemed it too dangerous.

Here is the tricky part - when we instruct kids to hide something from their parents deliberately, despite the intentions (for science or chocolates), we are teaching them to be dishonest. We are telling them it is OK to tell half-truths and lie, as long as we can justify to ourselves that we can get satisfaction from our  actions.

Once we start taking the kids down this path, where do we draw the line? Where will they draw the line? It requires judgement and maturity to know what is too big a matter to lie and what is small enough for them to get away with.

It is a slippery slope. 

So the next time someone tells my kids to lie to me, be warned. I will not take it lightly.

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