Parenting is tough and it takes a lot of work and thought. I had a realization quite some time ago about discipline and telling the truth, and how they might end up competing with one another.
Here’s the scenario…
My 3 year-old and 21 month old are playing together in their room. I’m not in their room because they play well together and I need to get something done in the other room. Suddenly the 21 month old starts crying. Not one of those, “oh crap, something really bad happened” cries, but something that’s worth going in to check out.
What’s your first response? Mine is to ask the 3 year-old, “what happened.” Here’s where parenting comes into play, and where we’re actually teaching our kids how to respond to us.
Let’s say he tells me the truth, and that he was, “battling with my brother, and just hit him on the top of his head really hard with my sword.” If I would have seen him do this, it would have been natural for me to take care of the issue right away through some means that I may or may not feel comfortable sharing with a large audience on the internet (I’ll let you guess).
BUT, since I didn’t actually see what happened, I’m relying on the word of my son. Now HE has a decision. He knows what the consequence would be if I saw him hit his brother on the head with his sword (because I think I’m a fairly good parent and am consistent).
What is most important to me in this scenario is that my son feels comfortable telling me the truth, and that he’s not learning that I’m disciplining him for telling me the truth. This is where truth trumps discipline.
Ultimately I want to be a safe place for my son to tell me the truth in anything. I am clear in my boundaries with disciplining him (he knows the boundaries, and knows the discipline for each boundary that is broken), and I show him that I love him as much as possible.
And who knows, maybe my 21-month old hit him in the face first? That’s usually the real story…