Joy of the Month Excerpt (July)
Honesty & Candor
"What did you promise your little girl if she would do so and so? Did you promise her a present for well doing? Yes. Have you recollected it? No, it has gone from my mind, says the mother. If she does ill have you promised her a chastisement? Yes, Did you keep your word? You have not, and the child forms the conclusion in its own mind that the mother tells that which is not true-- she says she will do this or that, and she does not do it."
Children are born with the gift of realness, congruence, honesty, candor. At first, they know nothing else. People have to learn to be false, to cover up feelings, to lie. Josh just turned three and hasn't learned to do any of them yet. Last time I tried to give him a bath, the big new shampoo bottle was empty. "did you dump it out, Josh?' His brow furrowed as he anticipated the worst, but a lie never occurred to him. "Yes, Dad." We have a family law against "dumping" and Josh knows the law, so he needed a little punishment. But I praised him so much for telling the truth that it out balanced the punishment.
As Josh splashed in the bath, my mind went back to another time when the shampoo was dumped, when Saren was five and Shawni four. "Did you do it, Saren?" Her look showed that she was about to say, "No, Shawni did." Then a change came to her eye. "Daddy, sometimes it's hard to tell the truth isn't it." I felt inner rejoicing. She had consciously chosen truth over a lie.
Josh pulled me back to the present. "Daddy, dry me off!" As I dried Josh, I had candor and honesty on my mind and happened to hear Saren, now six, in whom we had tried so hard to preserve that quality. She was in her bedroom with a new friend from school. They were discussing dolls.
Saren: "This doll has a problem. Her skirt has lost its elastic so it slips right off."
Friend: "Let's tie a string around it." (Silence for several minutes)
Saren: "It scares me when Miss Christie calls on me to read in school. Does it scare you?"
Friend: "A little."
Saren: "I'm getting over it, though."
Friend: " The more you do it, the easier it is."
Saren: "I guess so. There, we got the skirt almost ready." (pause)
Friend: "Saren, do you like me?"
Saren: "Of course, silly, I like everything about you."
Saren: "Except I didn't like it when you played with Patty at recess-- but Mommy says I was just jealous."
Friend: "What's jealous?"
Saren: "Not wanting someone to have more fun that you."
Friend: "I like you too, Saren."
To be honest, to be open, to talk freely about the real feelings-- what a joy!
What a need there is to reinforce children in their natural honesty, to get across to the clean slate of their minds the fact that it is just as all right to be sad or mad as to be glad, that what really counts is being real.
Congruence, in the psychological sense, is a matching up of how you really feel, how you think you feel, and how you say you feel. Straightforward honesty and candor, added to congruence, can free and lift the mind into the clear realm, void of "games" and "fronts" and "stiff upper lips." Grown-ups, too, can find this congruence.
Parenting Methods and Ideas
1- Example. Be as real and congruent as your children are. Sharing your example (or following theirs) is the strongest possible reinforcement. Verbalize your real feelings, fears, and insecurities as well as your joys and loves. Show control, but show honesty! Tell them how you feel--"I'm upset about what happened this afternoon, so I go more angry with you than I should have." Never let hem hear you lie about anything to anyone.
Fore sake the false parental notions of not arguing when they're there, and not punishing when you are angry or upset. Certainly there is a need for control, but be genuine. It's all right to show some honest indignation, and it's all right for children to see a parental disagreement ass long as (1) the light of love shines through, (2) it's not about them (the children), and (3) you make up afterwards-- and they see what you do.
2- Reinforcement and praise. Since children start with realness, congruence, and honesty, recognition and reinforcement become the two great keys. What ever they get attention for, they'll probably do again; what ever they get praise for, they'll very likely do again; what ever they get joy and praise out of , they'll almost certainly do again. Encourage them to always tell how they feel--to tell not only you but also other family members, school teachers, and friends.
Psychiatrists tell us that it's usually as hard to get a person to know how he really feels as it is to help him know why he feels that way. The reason it is so hard to know how we feel is that we stop so early in life telling anyone, even ourselves, how we really feel. We need top recognize emotions, accept them, and , if possible, enjoy them.
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