Dr. Robyn Silverman on Fox News (Fox and Friends) Saturday, Oct 3

Fox and Friends Topic: Should We Ever Lie to our Children?

By: Dr. Robyn Silverman

I’m currently getting ready to travel down to the Fox News studios in NYC to do a segment on whether parents should ever lie to their children.  What do you think?

Here’s my take:

Lying.

We tell our children not to do it.  It’s wrong.  It’s dishonest. It’s got bad consequences. And yet, parents often lie to their children. It’s OK, right? After all, our parents did it. Most parents still do.

You keep a special stash of your favorite chocolate in a high up cabinet. You tell your boss you have a doctor’s appointment but you really just want to see your child in her Holiday play. And perhaps you even told them that you didn’t drink alcohol until you were 21.

But if we’re supposed to lead by example, how can parents lie to their children? We look our children right in the eye and tell them that lying is (nearly always) unacceptable.

Moms and Dads lie for all different reasons; from lying for the protection of their children, to keeping details about sex, drugs, smoking, death, rape, and war at a minimum? Is it ethical? Hypocritical? Wise? Necessary?

In order to answer that question, we need to consider:

(1) The reasons for lying

(2) The benefits of telling the truth

(3) The goals

Some things to consider:

  • Reasons for lying
  • Benefits from telling the truth
  • The goals for your child

Let’s go into more detail:

(1) Reasons for lying: Why are you lying? Certainly it has no malicious intent.  Are you trying to keep your kids from being prematurely pushed from their comfort zones? That’s a good reason. It’s a good idea to keep in mind the developmental age of our children and tell them what they can process and understand without scaring them unnecessarily.

  • Why it can be a bit hypocritical: Well, we ask children to not only tell the truth, but not to omit details of the truth either. Then we go ahead and do a covert cover up, leave out pieces of the story, or just tell them a bold faced lie. Let’s call a spade a spade here.
  • Why it can be necessary: When children are asked to listen and accept truths prematurely, it can be very scary and confusing for them. Parents often know best. Yes, some topics are not meant for little ears and others need to be explained very delicately or in broad brush-strokes. If you’re unsure how to handle a touchy situation, talk to your Pediatrician or other helping professional.
  • Parents Biggest Mistake: Your child asks you a question and you tell him that he’s too young to talk about such things (i.e. sex, drugs, smoking, etc). Mark my words, he’ll either (1) find out from another source, (2) become so interested in it that he gets into some trouble (forbidden fruit), or (3) he’s already doing it or thinking about doing it and you just missed your opportunity to talk about it with him!!! Don’t make this mistake!!!

(2) Benefits from telling the truth: If you can tell the truth and you think your child can handle it, it’s a good choice. Telling the truth can be very beneficial. It helps to connect and establish trust. They can learn from your mistakes. They can also learn about drugs, sex, war and other touchy topics from a trusted person- you– instead of one of their friends who likely will give them false information. Make yourself their first and most credible resource.

  • Be sure to express your opinion: If you choose to tell the truth about your own past experiences and mistakes, be sure to talk to your children about why you believe it was a mistake, what you wish you had done instead, and how you feel about your children participating in such situations. Show the amount of disapproval such a thing deserves such as sex at a young age or drugs.
  • Be sure to ask questions: Don’t be the one who does all the talking. Ask your children and teens how they feel about these topics, questions and concerns that they have, why it’s of interest now, and how you can help them the most. Let them tell you their stories and talk to you about their fears, interests, and worries. Listening is one of the best things you can do.
  • Caution! Remember to make your explanations age-appropriate. In many cases, it’s best if details of crazy parties, early sexual experiences, drug use, and smoking, were left out. Explaining too much in detail might give the kids the impression that you miss what you used to do or that you feel it was a good idea—even if you don’t believe that at all. Children also don’t need to hear many of the gory details of the current war your brother or niece is helping to fight—but rather, the hard work their doing, their bravery, and the band of brothers and sisters that are working to keep them as safe as possible so that we can all be safe at home. By the same token, when you are divorcing filling your child’s head with information about spousal infidelity, stealing, cheating, and backstabbing is not appropriate—but rather, that while his parents no longer love each other or can live with each other, both parents will always love him, care for him, and it’s in no way his fault. As yourself, how does this information serve my child? And remember to think about why they might be asking—for reassurance, for basic information, for safety, or what?

(3) Goals for Child: Think about your goals for your children. If you shelter them, it may backfire. They feel unprepared or lied to—and this could put in question your credibility. On the other hand, too much information can be confusing and scary. You must really listen to your child and help him without overwhelming him. You must teach him integrity, honesty, and trust, without compromising yours.

In the end, you have to decide what’s right for you and your child.  Every child is different– some can handle more detail than others.  Would love to hear your opinion– so comment below! Hope you’ll tune in at 8:20am EST, 7:20 Central, 6:20 Mountain, and yes, you early birds– 5:20am Pacific- to Fox News’ Fox and Friends to see us talk about lying, when it may be OK to not tell the full truth and when we must.

copyright: Dr. Robyn Silverman

Clipart credit: Jupiter Images

Parents Lying to Children: Necessary or Hypocritical?

Lying to our Children: The Elephant in the Room Meets The Hypocrite in the Mirror

By: Dr. Robyn Silverman

Lying.

In the wake of honesty month, for Powerful Words, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Parents often lie to their children. It’s OK, right? After all, our parents did it. Most parents still do.

You eat a cookie before dinner and then deny it. You call in sick to work and tell them you had a day off. And yes, you may have even told that you didn’t inhale.

But if we’re supposed to lead by example, why do so many parents lie to their children? We often tell our children that lying is (nearly always) unacceptable. Parents lie for all different reasons; from lying for the protection of their children, to keeping details about sex, drugs, smoking, death, war and peace ? Is it ethical? Hypocritical? Wise? Necessary?

Some things to consider:

  • Reasons for lying
  • Possible benefits from telling the truth
  • Goals for child as a parent

(1) Reasons for lying: First to consider is why you’re lying to your child in the first place. Most parents lie just to keep their kids from being prematurely pushed from their comfort zones. That’s a good reason. After all, information that we give our children should be age-appropriate so that it can be easily understood and processed.

  • Why it can be a bit hypocritical: Well, we ask children to not only tell the truth, but not to omit details of the truth either. Then we go ahead and do a covert cover up, leave out pieces of the story, or just tell them a bold faced lie. Let’s call a spade a spade here.
  • Why it can be necessary: When children are asked to listen and accept truths prematurely, it can be very scary and confusing for them. Parents often know best. Yes, some topics are not meant for little ears and others need to be explained very delicately or in broad brush-strokes. If you’re unsure how to handle a touchy situation, talk to your Pediatrician or other helping professional.
  • Parents Biggest Mistake: Your child asks you a question and you tell him that he’s too young to talk about such things (i.e. sex, drugs, smoking, etc). Mark my words, he’ll either (1) find out from another source, (2) become so interested in it that he gets into some trouble (forbidden fruit), or (3) he’s already doing it or thinking about doing it and you just missed your opportunity to talk about it with him!!! Don’t make this mistake!!!

(2) Benefits from telling the truth: Telling the truth can also be beneficial in certain situations. Some children would take their parents’ admissions of past mistakes as a point of connection between them. Children can also learn from your past mistakes or the mistakes of others. They also may appreciate and show gratitude for their current lifestyle, opportunities, and support system by knowing what came before them to make it possible. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, children and teens will learn about drugs, sex, war and other touchy topics from someone—make yourself their first and most credible resource.

  • Be sure to express your opinion: If you choose to tell the truth about your own past experiences and mistakes, be sure to talk to your children about why you believe it was a mistake, what you wish you had done instead, and how you feel about your children participating in such situations. Show the amount of disapproval such a thing deserves such as sex at a young age or drugs.
  • Be sure to ask questions: Don’t be the one who does all the talking. Ask your children and teens how they feel about these topics, questions and concerns that they have, why it’s of interest now, and how you can help them the most. Let them tell you their stories and talk to you about their fears, interests, and worries. Listening is one of the best things you can do.
  • Caution! Remember to make your explanations age-appropriate. In many cases, it’s best if details of crazy parties, early sexual experiences, drug use, and smoking, were left out. Explaining too much in detail might give the kids the impression that you miss what you used to do or that you feel it was a good idea—even if you don’t believe that at all. Children also don’t need to hear many of the gory details of the current war your brother or niece is helping to fight—but rather, the hard work their doing, their bravery, and the band of brothers and sisters that are working to keep them as safe as possible so that we can all be safe at home. By the same token, when you are divorcing filling your child’s head with information about spousal infidelity, stealing, cheating, and backstabbing is not appropriate—but rather, that while his parents no longer love each other or can live with each other, both parents will always love him, care for him, and it’s in no way his fault. As yourself, how does this information serve my child? And remember to think about why they might be asking—for reassurance, for basic information, for safety, or what?

(3) Goals for Child: Think about your goals for your children. If you shelter them, it may backfire. They feel unprepared or lied to—and this could put in question your credibility. On the other hand, too much information can be confusing and scary. You must really listen to your child and help him without overwhelming him. You must teach him integrity, honesty, and trust, without compromising yours.

  • Note: Telling them all of your past mistakes may make them wonder about your credibility—if you did X, did you also do Y? In addition, watch those double standards! Telling children not to smoke, while smoking yourself, can be a tough fight to win.

I know, it can all be very uncomfortable, right? To tell the truth or to tell a lie? Powerful Words do make us look harder in our own mirror. At least we’re almost onto a new month…determination…get out your running shoes!

copyright: Dr. Robyn Silverman

Clipart credit: Jupiter Images

Tell Me Lies: Children Learn to Flatter at age 4

Like to hear how much your child adores you? Children learn to tell social lies around 4 years old—that’s right, they learn how to flatter others and tell you just what you want to hear!

In the spirit of the Powerful Word of the month—honesty–it’s humorous that we don’t always want our children to tell the truth all the time, do we? If they did, you might be startled by what you hear. See this 30 second clip from one mother whose child hasn’t censored his real thoughts about her as an example…

A Chinese-Canadian study out of the University of Toronto shows that even young children know the power of flattery. The researchers focused on 285 children ages 3-6 years old, and asked the youngsters to rate drawings by children and adults who they knew, as well as to rate the drawings of strangers.

The preschoolers were asked to judge these art pieces both when the artist responsible was present as well as when the artist was absent. While the 3 year olds were consistently honest no matter if they had a relationship with the artist or if the artist was there to hear their assessments, the 5 and 6 year olds gave more flattering ratings to those artists who were present to hear their remarks. Interestingly, they flattered both strangers and those people who they knew—however, those whom they had a relationship consistently received the highest praise.

Among the 4 year olds, half the group provided flattering remarks when the artist was present and half did not. This finding suggests that 4 years old marks a transition from honest critique to flattery as the child gains a better understanding of the culture’s social courtesies.

Kang Lee, director of the Institute of Child Study at OISE/U of T and co-author of the report (recently published in the journal Developmental Science) isn’t certain of why the children flatter at this age but he knows that something is definitely going on:

“I’m sure politeness and empathy play some role,” Lee tells a reporter “But the fact they gave higher ratings to some groups than others suggests there is some form of ulterior motive beyond just being polite. We socialize kids to show empathy and politeness to everybody, not more to some people than to others.”

We can look to adults to glean some possible answers. According to Lee, adults flatter because; (1) They are showing gratitude for some positive; or (2) They’re creating a bridge with someone whom they’re meeting for the first time in case that person could be important for their advancement later down the road—it’s viewed as an “investment” in their positive treatment from the other person in the future.

“We don’t know which the child is doing…They are thinking ahead, they are making these little social investments for future benefits.”

In my assessment, the children may also be reacting to other social beliefs that mean statements may “get them into trouble” and nice statements make others happy, which feels good to everyone. Lee previously studied the responses of children ages 3 to 11, who were given gifts they didn’t like. Findings suggest that even 3-year-olds tell white lies to avoid hurting the feelings of the gift-giver.

Regardless of the reason for the flattery, our society does indeed teach children that honesty isn’t always the best policy, even if we tell them that they should always tell the truth. Adults do it themselves. We spare the feelings of others by telling them we like the “great book” they gave us of the “beautiful scarf” they knitted for a friend. But Lee suggests the flattery is motivated by self-interest and can annoy those who watch it happening (i.e. when an employee is flattering the boss).

“Kids at 4 or 5 are able to make distinctions already – that this lie is bad but this one is not very bad.”

Note: Your children will be discussing the question; “is honesty always the best policy” in the 4th week of this month’s Powerful Words curriculum. Aside from flattery, and “good” secrets like surprise parties for family of friends, all Powerful Words Member Schools will be discussing honesty with regard to strangers. Questions like, “should we tell strangers our phone number and address?” (for young children) and “how honest should we be with strangers on line?” (for older students), among others, will be explored.

All Powerful Parents are encouraged to use the Powerful Words curriculum as a Springboard for discussion at home or in the car to discuss how honesty plays a role in your family’s life and what your policies on are with regard to lying and telling the truth in different situations (i.e. when they made a mistake, when grandma gives them a gift they don’t like, when a stranger approaches them and asks them personal information, etc.) Stay tuned to your Powerful Words member schools for additional information on this topic.

We’re looking forward to hearing your comments on this topic as well as any child development issue! Please put your questions and comments below so we can create a dialog on these topics!

Thanks!

*image from Jupiter images.

7 Tips to Help Children Learn Good Money Habits: Interview with Money Man, Sam Renick

How can our children and teens get honest about their money habits?

Dr. Robyn interviews Mr. Sam Renick about teaching children financial literacy

Thank you for joining us here at the Powerful Parent Blog, Mr. Renick. I know you’ve spent a great deal of time working with children on creating a “habit” of earning and spending money wisely through your children’s character “Sammy, the get in the habit, rabbit. In the spirit of honesty month, you really help them to get “honest “with their money habits. So let’s jump right in so we can help parents teach their children financial literacy, a vital skill everyone should learn, and that we’ve been discussing lately and that we’ve discussed previously on the blog.

What kind of information do you share with children about money?

I spend a lot of time talking with elementary school students sharing with them: why I think saving money is a great habit; how it makes them strong and why habits are important. I let them know the key reason why a habit like saving money is important and powerful is because it has a predictable outcome. In other words, the habit of saving money is reliable. It’s dependable. It’s true. It’s honest.

What happens when children and teens make a habit of saving money?

When we make a habit of saving money we can honestly predict our money will grow. We can also honestly predict: (1) we will be better prepared for emergencies; (2) we will be better positioned to make dreams come true; (3) we will be better prepared to help ourselves and others; (4) we will be better prepared to get what we want and need, when we want and need it; and (5) we will have more choices, freedom, independence and security.

And if we don’t “get honest” with ourselves and make it a habit?

As you can imagine, the opposite it true. If we fail to be honest with ourselves about our money habits and routinely exceed our budgets, spend more than we make, and carry credit debt, then it should not come as a surprise that we will have less freedom, more worries, more stress and more strain on relationships.

What can parents do to help their children develop smart money habits?

  1. Walk the talk – part 1. I don’t know of anything that’s more honest or “powerful” (to use your word, Dr. Robyn) than leading by example. If you’re already doing a good job, keep it up. If not, start by improving your own understanding of personal finance by reading a good book on the subject. I recommend “The Way to Wealth,” by Benjamin Franklin and “Raising Money Smart Kids,” by Janet Bodnar.
  2. Walk the talk – part 2. If I could only give a person one piece of advice regarding money it would be this – “pay yourself first.” So, if you are not saving or investing, start. If you are in credit card debt, start systematically paying it off. Get committed to living a debt free life. This will set an excellent example for kids to follow. The web is filled with resources and discussion groups that can help. MSN Money, CNN Money, Yahoo are all good places to begin.
  3. Talk regularly with kids about money. Studies routinely cite lack of communication between parents and children as a common obstacle to raising money literate kids. Take advantage of natural opportunities to involve kids in money related discussions while shopping, budgeting, making lists, recycling, and paying bills. The more responsibility you can appropriately give them for activities the better. Also be sure to initiate dialogue about dreams, goals, home ownership, investments, etc.
  4. Start early with books and music. Expose children to books and music about money early and often. Naturally, I recommend our books and music. For older kids, I love Chad Foster’s “Financial Literacy for Teens,” and David Bach’s “The Automatic Millionaire.”
  5. Instill the habit. Get your child a transparent piggy bank, or better yet create your own family savings bank. Our family did this when we were kids using a Sparklett’s bottle. We all loved it and it really promoted discussion about how to use the money once the bottle was full. When the bank is full take your child to the bank or credit union, start an account and deposit the savings. Review their statements with them regularly.
  6. Affirmations. Provide kids with fun slogans to repeat. Here are a few of Sammy’s favorites: Saving is a great habit! Saving makes me strong! Change adds up! From every dollar, save a dime! Debt Stinks! I am sure you have some of your favorites. Post the slogans around the house or paint them onto your family savings jar.
  7. Allowance. Give your child an opportunity to manage money. Be consistent and supportive. Allow kids to make their own decisions and mistakes within reason. For tips on allowance, check out David McCurrach’s “Allowance Magic.” It’s an excellent read.

Thank you, Sam, for being with us today and giving us these very important tips!

Who is Sam Renick and how can you get in touch?

Sam X Renick is an award winning author, songwriter, trainer, social entrepreneur, and co-creator of the children’s character ‘Sammy, the get in the habit rabbit.’ He is also the founder of The It’s a Habit! Company, Inc., a socially conscious publishing and education company dedicated to helping children and families develop good habits, especially saving money. You can learn more about Sammy, Sam, It’s a Habit! and their mission at www.itsahabit.com

Liar Liar: 7 Questions that Will Help your Children Choose Right Over Wrong

Is your child telling lies?

By: Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

The Powerful Word of the month for June will be honesty. So to give you a jump on thinking of this very important character concept, let’s bring the point of lying out into the open. After all, lying is very much part of growing up and understanding right from wrong, reality from fantasy and truth from untruth.

When my best friend, Randi, and I were about 7 years old we did something really stupid. It was 4pm on a Wednesday in November and we decided to go for a little stroll. No, not down the street, not around the block, but all the way to the bottom of the hill, aside a highly trafficked road (cars whizzing by at 60 miles per hour) and then back up the opposite side of the hill—only to nonchalantly saunter back towards Randi’s house, feathers sticking out of our mouths having eaten the proverbial canary.

I bet you could imagine how I felt; scared, invigorated, guilty, and triumphant all at the same time. My gut was doing somersaults. While we had never been told NOT to do such a thing, we knew it was wrong and we had gotten away with it. But just as we entered Randi’s house, she walked over to her mother and to my horror, confessed the whole thing. How could she? This was not part of the plan! I can still hear it ringing in my head, “Mommy, you always told me to tell the truth. Robyn and I walked down the hill and across Pleasant Valley Way.”

It would likely not surprise you that my mother was furious when she learned of the news. All I can remember her asking was, “what were you thinking???”

What was I thinking? I am sure I was hoping that I would get away with it. I am certain I was thinking it would be something fun to do. And I am quite positive that I was eager to fully avoid the amount of trouble that currently awaited me. And there was no question that I was in a lot.

Perhaps you’re conjuring up memories of the day that you or your child made one of those very bad choices. As parents, we always want our children to choose the safest and best decisions. When we are with them, we can ensure that it usually happens that way. When we aren’t, we leave it in their hands. This is why so many parents can’t sleep at nights even though we’re all so tired, right?

We must arm our children with some Powerful Questions that can help them to choose right over wrong.

(1) What is the voice inside my gut telling me to do? Teaching children to listen to their gut is a very important skill. Our bodies often tell us what our minds our try to disguise. If your child chooses right or wrong, ask them, what made you make that choice? What was your gut telling you to do? What will you do next time?

(2) Could I look my parents/friend/teacher in the eye after I do it? We often know when our children are lying because they can not look us in the eye. Helping your children to understand that answering “no” to this question is a sign that they may be on the verge of making a poor choice.

(3) Could I look at myself in the mirror after I do it? This is really the crux of it, isn’t it? In fact, this is the way my own mother explained the meaning of integrity to me. If our children feel that they could not look at their own selves in the mirror after making this choice and be proud of what they did, they should take it as a warning that the impending choice could bring them a feeling of regret or shame.

(4) Would I do this behavior whether someone was watching me or not? In my opinion, the definition of good character is choosing to do the right thing whether all eyes are on you or all eyes are looking away. If your child can not answer “yes” to both scenarios, then she should probably not be doing it.

(5) Does the end justify the means? This can be a tough concept for children. After all, if they want an A on their book report and get an A on their book report that should be a good thing, right? Yes, accept when that A is achieved through dishonest means such as cheating. Sometimes, children have trouble remembering that parents actually care more about effort and character than about their child being the very best regardless of the cost. We must be patient and clear up this confusion so that children will choose “right” over “best” when faced with a question of integrity.

(6) Am I doing this because it is right or because it is popular? We have all heard of peer pressure. This phenomenon can happen on a variety of levels. Think of the child who argues that his friend, who clearly lost the race, crossed the finish line first. In this case, the child succumbs to the rules of friendship over the rules of fairness and integrity. We also see it when the child chooses to climb the fence because his friends are doing it rather than because he desires to do it himself. Either way, he is letting the popular thing get in the way of doing the right thing. We must teach our children not to allow popularity to cloud our judgment because in the end, the truth always comes out.

(7) Am I being who I am or am I being who others want me to be? This question coincides with number 6. We want our children to be themselves. When they alter their thoughts, actions, appearance, or choices because others want it that way, they are doing a major disservice to themselves and others. On the one hand, they are not allowing others to get to know the real individual behind the farce. On the other hand, they are building their friendships on a lie. As Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of Women Who Run with the Wolves, wrote, “If you live your life trying to please others, half the people will like you and half won’t. And if you live your life according to your own truth, half the people will like you and half won’t.” The underlying question it brings up—which half do you want as friends—those who like you for who you actually are or the person you are pretending to be?

As we know, mistakes will happen. If we use those mistakes to help our children make better choices next time, we will be strengthening their integrity. In the end, we are cultivating future leaders. And I imagine, as Powerful Parents, you would agree, that we want our future leaders to base their decisions on well-instilled values and principles rather than what is fast, popular, and self-serving.

This article was originally printed in the award-winning Bay State Parent Magazine.

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman is a child and adolescent development specialist whose programs and services are used by top educational facilities worldwide. She is also a success coach for parents and business leaders across the United States and Canada who are looking to achieve their goals, improve their lives or improve the lives of others. She presents to organizations, schools, and parents groups around the world on topics related to building character, leadership, communication, social networking and confidence. Interested in doing some coaching with Dr. Robyn or having Dr. Robyn present a seminar at your child’s school or at your business? Go to http://www.DrRobynSilverman.com for more information.