Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Importance of Telling the Truth to Children

I was musing this morning on the importance of telling kids the truth, rather than fiction. As reasonable and moral adults, we have a serious responsibility to the truth. We have to tell the truth, in love, to those we know and care about in order to help them. This same principle applies to children. Don't let your own, or anyone else's, child fall victim to the abuse of truth! Of course there are scenarios where it is necessary to conceal part of the truth; however, kids are already so vulnerable in this regard. Wouldn't it be better to say, "I will not tell you," or "That is not for you to know yet," rather than making up some tale to answer a child's question? Also, while we might abbreviate facts, in order to simplify them for the child's understanding, we have to guard the sense from distortion. I'm not sure how a child's development might be influenced by having parents, and other adults, tell him made up stories, but I think it must be an adverse effect. A lie is always a lie, even a small lie, even to a small person. Lies harm people.

Final note: Kids can handle much more of the truth than adults realize or imagine. I am the first proponent of sheltering children--I was a product of this educational strategy myself--but I think the point of sheltering is to prevent kids from having bad images or firsthand experiences of the ugliness and sin that they are too young to absorb. It's not to prevent open communication or to prevent the kid from knowing about matters in the world. When a child asks a question, the default mode should be to answer it as you would for an adult--and then you apply the filter of what this particular child can digest.

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