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Honesty is the best policy...

Hello again. Terri Poppins “poppin-in”…

In this blog, I would like to talk about honesty. It was quite shocking to me as a nanny, in one sense, to see how many children at such a young age lie so quickly and easily. It posed the question inside myself: “What in a child prompts the decision to not tell the truth when asked?” For the answer, I had to look within my own self, because I really am no different than that child. The answer that came was “It is the past that prompts the decision to lie.” It stems from fear.

Patterns get created very early on in a child’s life. Just one negatively reactive response by a parent to a child’s action sets a pattern. Example: “You broke my favorite vase! Go to your room now!” That reactive response by a parent is the (old) past that creates the future. That (past) pattern, will meet the moment the next time a child does something that goes against the parent’s wishes. Additionally, and in that same respect, that “past” pattern will be there to unconsciously speak to the child in that moment, the need to lie if a parent asks something like “Who spilled the milk all over the floor?” Past patterns are laced with fear.

The reactive pattern of blaming, accusing and punishing a child creates a self-protecting, yet truly destructive, desire to lie. The child can’t feel a certain “safety” in being honest when questioned, when the parent speaks from the reactive response. That reactive response is a fearful response, which will, in turn, be met by the same fearful response in the child, i.e. the need to lie to protect itself. In order to break this old pattern, there has to be “space” given to that child in that unwanted moment. Here’s an example from an experience of mine:

A 5-year old said to me “(sister) Jane pinched me.” I asked the sister to come see me. She came. I asked her if she pinched her sister and she said “no”. But I noticed she diverted her eyes when she was asked the question. So I asked Jane to please look at me in the eyes when answering the question. I then asked the question again. Once again Jane diverted her eyes and said “no”.

At that point, I realized I needed to check within myself to be aware of the part of me that was asking the question. Was I asking with a subtle accusation… or was I giving her space to be honest without judgement? I took a deep breath and just worked to be in the moment with her and I repeated myself asking her once again if she pinched her sister. This time she kept her eyes on me and answered “yes”. I paused, waited, and then said “yes”, thank you for being honest. I then asked her if there was anything she wanted to say to her sister about the event. She turned to her sister and said “I’m sorry”.

But I just want to add that even if Jane’s response was that she didn’t want to say anything to her sister, that that was ok too. Allowing a child the space to choose in that moment, instead of forcing them to do something you would like them to do, not only gives them an opportunity to “be” with that choice (and an opportunity to learn from it), but builds a certain trust in that allowance that will open the door for a willingness inside them to be an honest human being.

The key always boils down to being aware of the part of yourself that is speaking and responding. Open your heart. Give your child what you yourself wish to be given. Being aware in the moment by giving your child your full attention, creates a safe place for the child. Dishonesty can only live in the past. It can’t live in the present moment.

It is important to remember that every relationship, not just with your child, is a delicate one. That remembrance will allow us to bring something new into this world in every one of our relationships. One of the meanings of the word “delicate” (from the old Webster 1828 dictionary) is: “that which cannot be handled without injury or danger; that must be touched with care.”

We injure and endanger ourselves and others when we aren’t aware of ourselves in the moment and react and take action from what the past tells us the moment means and what to do about it. The moment must be “touched” with care, meaning, we must wait and be directed by it. The past always contains force and pressure. The magical moment is always directed by the heart.

If we were truly honest with ourselves in those trying moments with our children, we would say “I honestly don’t know what to do here”. By opening up ourselves with that honesty and in that “not knowing”, invites something new that does know in that very moment, exactly what to do. It’s magic.

Exercise: See if you can either stop yourself in the moment before a reactive response, or stop yourself on the heels of a reactive response. Then work to wait to let that old, borrowed past move through you in that moment, that demands you lash out at your child. Stand in the heat of that, instead of regurgitating that heat back onto our child, which is all that this world has known to do. Work at that this week.

This, as all great things, requires a great sacrifice on our part because it can be quite painful indeed, because the momentum of the past will want to do its usual thing, which is to blame and punish. But there is no other way to bring something new into this world. The old parts have to go…. and they won’t go easily.

But you are a warrior in a right revolution! Warriors persist and persistence pays. Warriors do not punish themselves for “missing the mark”. They let it go and start over, over and over again.

Photo by Bess Hamiti from Pexels

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