It’s funny that as I’ve been thinking, blogging, and reading your comments about trust, I got a chance to work on it at home.
When it was time to put the kids in bed on Monday night, MC had run out of steam, so I offered to handle the kids while she soaked in the tub. (Eight months pregnant and chasing after two kids all day – I figure she’s entitled to a break every so often.)
During their rest time earlier in the day, the kids played in the hallway connecting their rooms and failed to clean up before they came back downstairs.
Among the items cluttering the hallway were two towels.
“Who got the towels out?” I asked.
“Not me,” they both answered.
“Someone got them out,” I said. “Who got the towels out?”
“Not me,” they each maintained.
“I’m going to ask you one more time, and you’re going to tell me the truth this time. Who got the towels out?” I asked.
“We both did,” they confessed.
With that, I dispatched them to hang the towels in the bathroom and told them to come back and sit on the edge of Daughter’s bed when they were done.
In my “Uh-Oh, Dad Is Serious!” voice, I let them know I shouldn’t have to peel back layers of lies to get to the truth, and that I didn’t appreciate them being so cavalier about lying to me.
I needed to give the moment some weight and really let them know that their honesty is something I value. So I set off a preschooler version of World War III.
“You’ve lost your stories for tonight,” I told them, and sent Son to his room to get in his bed.
I let them weep and gnash teeth for a few minutes while I went downstairs to tell MC that everything was under control. Fortunately, she couldn’t hear the proceedings from her spot in the tub. And that’s a good thing, because if she could hear their screaming, she might have thought someone was being drawn and quartered.
After giving the kids another moment to emote, I went back up and had a calm, matter-of-fact talk with each of them.
“It’s my job to be the best daddy I can be for you,” I told them. “I wouldn’t be doing my job if I let you think – even for a moment – that it’s OK for you to lie to me. If we went on with our routine like everything was normal, you might not understand how serious I am about this.”
And then I gave them hugs, tucked them in, and said goodnight.
Now if you think that stopped the drama (and more specifically, the screaming) you’re mistaken. They wailed for awhile longer.
Trust at home is built on honesty. And for my kids to see that I value honesty, I had to demonstrate to them that I can’t endorse their dishonesty.
I’m not sure the lesson stuck, because MC caught Daughter in a cleanup-related fib yesterday. But at least we’re planting the seeds, right?