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  1. #1
    ^He pronks, too! Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    Default Telling children the truth.

    Discussion time, class!

    The general question is; how much should children be told the truth?

    Is it ever the right thing to lie to a child? Give them a positive falsehood.

    Is it ever the right thing to withhold the truth from a child, without outright lying? Obscure a negative truth.

    Is it right to tell them you are certain about something that you really know is completely uncertain to you?

    Should the information a child can access on its own be restricted?

    Does the answers to these questions depend on specific age? Is it "yes" for a 5 year old, but "no" for a 10 year old? When is the line crossed?

    I have a number of complaints about the way my parents raised me, but I liked their handling of information. They did not give me a philosophical or ideological agenda, they answered the questions I asked, and they almost did not restrict me from any information. I still remember when I was about six or so, and I asked mom "what's a prostitute?", because I just heard the word. She says "It's someone that has sex for money". "Okay", and off I went, back to my business.

    I'm going to go even beyond my parents and make the radical proposal that a child should receive any and all information that it inquires for, as accurately as can be done (you can't spend all day explaining everything in minute detail, unfortunately).

    I tend to think that there is no such thing as bad knowledge (of course, I am open to any cost-benefit analysis to the contrary). I think that keeping the truth from a child simultaneously leaves them vulnerable to the harshness of the real world, and starves their critical thinking abilities (on the bright side, their inclination to think critically might sky rocket if they learn what a huge liar you are, but I think that's a bad way to go about it).

    What say you?!
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  2. #2
    Occasional Member Evan's Avatar
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    If the child cannot put "the truth" in context, it's not really the truth. Sometimes giving a true answer given all the assumptions normal adults take for granted is much more misleading than not giving an answer. So I think it's situational.

    That being said, I think parents should do their best to explain whatever the child has the capacity to understand. I still resent my parents for hiding their reasoning from me -- if it's good reasoning, they should be able to defend it (I was ahead of the curve in terms of understanding things as a kid anyway).

    I always had all sorts of philosophical questions, and think I would have benefited greatly from discussing them -- unfortunately my parents had no capacity to understand ME (I think I understood them better than they did me -- aspie-ish dad and bpd-ish mom). I learned almost everything from books.

    Regardless, I think parents should think of telling the truth as a general rule -- only in exceptional situations should they withhold it. And it's almost never justifiable to knowingly false answer.

    (The tooth fairy thing seems a bit cruel to me...good thing my parents never tried that bs on me!)

  3. #3
    Honor Thy Inferior Such Irony's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Evan View Post

    (The tooth fairy thing seems a bit cruel to me...good thing my parents never tried that bs on me!)
    My parents didn't do the tooth fairy thing but they did tell me about Santa Claus. I figured out he couldn't be real before my parents gave me "the talk" but still was bothered by the idea being lied to at the time.

    If I have kids, I'm just going to straight out tell them the truth about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. I don't want them to get their hopes up and have it taken away from them later.
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  4. #4
    Occasional Member Evan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by suchirony View Post
    My parents didn't do the tooth fairy thing but they did tell me about Santa Claus. I figured out he couldn't be real before my parents gave me "the talk" but still was bothered by the idea being lied to at the time.
    This is exactly why I think it's situational. Some kids will see through the bullshit, so telling them the truth is definitely the way to go. Lying will just make them wonder what the hell is going on, and lead them to question their own analytical abilities.

    Other kids might understand that it's fantasy at some level, but actually have fun playing around with the stories -- in that case, there may be potential gain in playing with them. Yes, it's not necessarily the truth, but some kids aren't even focused on that.

    Other groups of kids might just not get it at all, so lying about reality will just confuse them more. Bad idea in this case.

    So yeah, it depends on the kid. But in most cases, the truth is good anyway.

  5. #5
    Glowy Goopy Goodness The_Liquid_Laser's Avatar
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    I believe in telling the truth as long as it's put in a way that the child can understand given their age. If a 4 year old asks where babies come from you can say, "Mommy's belly" instead of "the stork", but the 4 year old probably doesn't need a textbook with an elaborate reproductive diagram.
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  6. #6
    Freaking Ratchet Rail Tracer's Avatar
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    It depends on the discussion. I'm pretty sure you've heard of the phrase, "What a child doesn't learn now, he'll learn later." Will generating a discussion with the child now a better alternative to telling him later? Is it better for the child to learn it on his own?

    Either way, if we were to tell the child the truth, we need to put it in a way that the child can understand without complicating things.

  7. #7
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    I make it a point to tell my son worse than the truth. That way when he learns it, he is like, "Ohhhhh, it's cancer....NOT flesh eating Zombies!!!"





    *That was a hypothetical, no one I know actually has cancer.

  8. #8
    Emperor/Dictator kyuuei's Avatar
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    In my eyes, if you're old enough and smart enough to comprehend the truth.. than you are also smart/old enough to understand why someone would lie to you about it. If you cannot see the entire picture, maybe you aren't as wise at your age as you think you are.

    My sisters were lied to a lot more than I was.. we all got the same talk, but I could sort out which made sense, and which didn't. I was at an early age helping my parents with christmas gifts, for example. Information didn't offend me, even bad information. Goldfish died, they didn't run away. I was the eldest, and for all intents and purposes, the closest thing to a son my father had. I had to act older than my age most of my life.

    My sisters, however, were very sensitive growing up. Things couldn't 'die' for them for a while. They couldn't understand that my parents didn't want her to go to the neighbor's house because their kid had been accused of touching little girls. It was just "No, because I said so. Be satisfied with that." How do you tell someone they could be sexually molested? And then have your kid go blab that to every other kid? and all the kids are talking about sex? and the neighborhood is in an uproar? and and and.. It gets out of hand. Sometimes, you just have to trust that there are good reasons. Even if YOU don't think they are good. It doesn't make them bad.

    Kids tend to say new information out of pride. Sometimes, information should be kept quiet.. Kids don't comprehend that Susie could be traumatized by sex, even though Jimmy thought the concept was cool. Kids don't have that capacity yet.. sometimes it's just a matter of knowing that angry parents may come at you with what your kid is saying, or you're up at the school during work hours because Jimmy talked about penises and vaginas infront of the class. Kids can create a lot of awkward situations for themselves and for their parents. Sometimes parents do the safer than sorry route.

    To give an example: My baby sister came home crying her eyes out, pissed off, traumatized from school because Billy told her Santa Clause wasn't real. She wasn't ready to believe that yet. It Genuinely hurt her to discover that. Had she had a couple years to mature, she would have eventually realized the truth on her own, and mayhap confronted us about it, and we'd tell her the more pleasent story: How it's a tradition based on a mascot, etc. We didn't get the opportunity to put the truth to her the way it should have been told (to us.) She got the "You stupid-head, Santa's not real. What're you, a baby?!" truth.

    I think it depends entirely on the kid.. and how you parent.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member You's Avatar
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    Public school will tell your kids the truth if you don't.
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  10. #10
    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deja Vu View Post
    Public school will tell your kids the truth if you don't.
    Well... there is that.

    My kids are teens and I think it's mostly just common sense. Can the kids understand the level of information you are offering. Can they put it in context, with or without your help?

    Often kids will determine their own level of need for information. All three of my kids are different, and all three desired (or showed a lack of desire) in certain types and levels of information. They would also determine their own level of need, especially as they got older; we would try to give them the gist of things or a bit of detail, then adjust to their response (which might have been, "Thanks," or "So what about...?" or "TMI! That's enough!")

    I think rules differ to some degree between kids and adults. They have to. A kid can't frame information yet, and people also can't (in a manner of speaking) tackle calculus when they don't even know algebra. Knowledge has to be built on prior knowledge if it is to be properly understood and framed, and some kids will need much more time to process the same amount of information. Tossing a kid in over his head in the name of "honesty" is kind of crazy; there's a reason why adults are adults and kids are kids. You just don't want to inhibit the growth process or withhold things out of personal convenience at your child's expense.

    The Santa Claus / Tooth Fairy thing gets a lot of press, but I feel like the whole thing is sensationalized. My experience? I actually enjoyed those myths when I was a kid and wasn't disillusioned with my parents or thinking them dishonest for promoting it; there was a lot of other crap my parents did that I DID take as a violation of trust and/or bs on their part, that impacted my life for years to come, but the big red bearded guy was not one of them. My own kids reacted pretty much the same way; they can tell the difference between a cultural tradition and an "actual relevant breach of faith." Maybe some other people have different feelings from their own childhood, but I don't share them nor have witnessed them; to me that whole argument is just a philosophical debate rather than an experiential one. And we have some great stories, my kids and I, about Santa Claus / Tooth Fairy stuff that I am sure they will share positively with THEIR children; it was fun for everyone.

    Basically, with parenting, GENERALLY the kid will determine how much information to give (although sometimes a parent will have to discuss unavoidable things the child might want to avoid); and if the parent does give the information, then the parent is responsible to "walk with the kid" if they have a rough ride with some of it. Those are the two basic rules, to me. It's a "we do it together" thing. I got screwed by my parents growing up -- they either didn't tell me anything or what they told me was bs much of the time even if they believed it; I had no adult to help me sift through it, and that was the suckiest part... to feel like I was facing life alone. Kids are tough and can face a lot if they believe they have grown-ups with them who love them.

    So I guess I agree with the gist of the OP but not the extremity of it. I also think we have to approach it experientially, not philosophically; how ARE kids ACTUALLY impacted by the revelation of information and what types and context, etc?
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