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Should You be Lying to Your Kids About Santa?

SAN SALVADOR, EL SALVADOR – DECEMBER 15: A man dressed up as a Santa Claus greets a girl during Christmas season on December 15, 2019 in San Salvador, El Salvador. (Photo by Camilo Freedman/APHOTOGRAFIA/Getty Images)

Then my son was eight, he asked if Santa was real. I didn’t know what to say, so I dodged the question. Naturally, he sought answers from the place that never let him down: the World Wide Web. When I spied him searching “Is Santa real?” on the iPad, I gently took it from him and asked, “Why do you want to know so much?”

“Because I feel like you’re lying to me,” he said, trying to blink away tears. He was distraught. I was too, because what had seemed like a sweet tradition was suddenly threatening the trust my child had for me. So I told him the truth—that Dad and I were Santa, and that we were never trying to “lie” about it, but rather, just to carry on something we had enjoyed as kids. He was surprised that I told him, and a little sad. But mostly, he was relieved.

A couple of years later, when my daughter was eight and wanted the truth, I had this same conversation with her, and she had a similar reaction: a tinge of disappointment, but mostly relief. Both times, honesty about Santa felt wrong, right up until the moment it felt right.

For the past three years, I’ve been researching what it means to be more aware of our own honesty choices instead of only focusing on the dishonesty in the world around us. And while the man in the red suit is an honesty dilemma for many parents, I’ve learned that it’s probably not as important as the other honesty choices we make as parents.

Unlike belief in Santa—which is something children grow out of—dishonesty is something children grow into, says Robert Feldman, a University of Massachusetts psychology professor who has studied lying for many years. In having children and adolescents purposely tell lies to mislead, he found that first graders were unconvincing liars, seventh graders were pretty decent, but college students were experts.

Use this tool to find a monthly payment that works for you.The reason they grow into lying is that we parents show them how to with our own behavior. One University of California–San Diego study found that preschoolers and young elementary schoolchildren who had been lied to by an experimenter were more likely both to cheat (they peeked at something when they weren’t supposed to) and then to lie about whether or not they peeked.

You might be thinking this doesn’t apply to you. I thought the same, until the evening my daughter and I were buying birthday favors at Party City. When I told the cashier that I didn’t have an email address when she asked for one, my daughter gave me the side eye. That’s when I realized I was teaching her how to swat off annoyances with little lies. (I now simply say, in a pleasant voice, “I don’t want to give you an email right now.”)

We always think we need a story that justifies how we feel, says etiquette expert Lizzie Post, great-grandchild of etiquette queen Emily Post and co-president of the Emily Post Institute. When there is no significant story, she says, we stretch the truth. These are the little fibs related to flattery, saving face, or protecting ego, such as making up a story about why you aren’t attending a family function or gushing with a friend over their new car when in fact you hate it.

“We teach our children that honesty is the best policy, but we also tell them it’s polite to pretend they like a birthday gift they’ve been given,” Dr. Feldman says. We want to raise kind children and be kind ourselves, except for the times when honesty is more important . . . which is when exactly?

Honesty seems like such a basic concept. So why do we get all tangled up in it, not just in parenting, but also in social situations, at work, and inside our most intimate relationships? It’s a two part answer: (1) the actor-observer bias— whereby we notice other’s lies more easily than our own—keeps us thinking we are more honest than we are (until our kid calls our bluff) and (2) much of what we think and say about honesty is just flat out wrong.

We don’t like to admit that we rely on what behavioral scientists call prosocial lies, or the lies we tell for the benefit of someone else. “It’s so deeply engrained in us to think lying is always wrong,” says Emma Levine, assistant professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, but her research has found that when you walk people through scenarios, they will agree that lying is sometimes the right thing to do.

I’ve noticed that I tend to use prosocial lies to build empathy, like if I see that someone is humiliated about a mistake, I might lie and tell them I made that same mistake when I haven’t. And you know what? I appreciate when someone does the same for me. On a trip last year, I tried to check into the wrong hotel (two sister hotels shared a parking garage) and felt like an idiot.

The valet attendant saw my embarrassment, and assured me he spent the majority of his day helping people who had tried to check into the wrong hotel. Did he really? Probably not. It was nice to hear though.

Prosocial lies may seem trivial, but these small moments can have a great deal of consequence in one-on-one relationships. On a reporting ride-along with a police officer last year, I noticed how patiently the officer listened to the story of a woman reporting a radio stolen from her truck. He handed her a card that assigned her a case number and told her how to work with the investigator. As we walked back to his cruiser, he asked me: “What do you think the chances of that case getting solved are?”

“Probably not very good?” I ventured.

“Pretty much zero,” he said.

“So, why bother with it then? I mean, I guess you have to, but if it’s just pointless, why not just be honest?”

“If she pursues it, we will, too. We’ll try. But in situations like this, people want to be heard. They want their story heard,” he said. “Most of what we do is just listen to people.”

Though we value people who “tell it like it is,” what this woman needed in that moment was to be listened to, more than she probably cared about recovering the radio. The next time she interacts with the police, it might be something more serious—like she could be a key witness in a case. He needs her to trust him, and the way to win her trust is through listening and caring.

Dr. Levine’s research supports the idea that prosocial lying can increase trust when someone has true insight into what the other person needs. Her research in healthcare settings has found that some patients prefer the brutal truth, while others want hope and optimism—but the doctor needs to know what the patient prefers, rather than imposing his or her own ideas about what’s best for the patient.

However, our prosocial lies go wrong when we let fear of the awkward conversation subsume what we know we should do. When an editor of mine was called out by another writer who told him that his style had become abrupt and condescending, he asked me if I felt the same way.

I did, but I froze, tried to skirt the issue, and ultimately said something like, “not really.” On the surface, it may seem kinder, but in fact, it’s cruel, because this person was asking for feedback. I wound up contacting him the next day, fessed up that I was frustrated with him, and we had a thoughtful and helpful conversation.

While that vulnerability isn’t easy, we tend to fear it more than we need to. In a study, Dr. Levine and Taya Cohen, associate professor of organizational behavior and theory at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, asked people to be completely honest in their dealings with others for three days.

While people predicted that it would ruin their relationships and cause hurt and pain, quite the opposite was true. “They found so much meaning in being honest,” Dr. Cohen says. This is probably why my conversations with my kids around Santa wound up feeling so meaningful, versus ruinous, and why honesty also improved my relationship with that editor.

The biggest thing about honesty we get wrong is missing the opportunity inside conversations with our children about why we lie. Explaining the Santa lie wasn’t that complicated for me, because Santa ultimately belongs in the category of mythology. I’ve learned far more from other unexpected conversations—like when, on the way to a well visit with the pediatrician, my son said, “I’m going to be honest if the doctor asks about screens. You always lie.”

My first response was rising anger, but then I realized this was an opportunity. “You’re right,” I said. “I do tend to lie about it. I shouldn’t. But do you know why I lie?”

“Because it’s bad that I use the iPad so much.”

“It’s not bad. It’s just that doctors think kids watch screens too much, and they’re right. But I don’t always follow what they say. We shouldn’t lie to doctors about things to do with health, though.”

“But you do,” he said.

“I do,” I said. “Because a little part of me feels ashamed that I should be a better mom. I often feel like people are saying I’m not a good mom if I do certain things or don’t do certain things. I feel judged. Do you ever feel that way?”

“Yeah, about my behavior. I’m bad sometimes and I know it.”

What a golden moment to talk about the difference between how we act and who we are, and about the nature of shame and how it so often clouds our choices when it comes to honesty.

By opening up to my kids about my own struggles, I’ve not only learned things about myself that have helped me in my career and my relationships, I’ve also shown them that honesty is a dynamic concept that takes vulnerability, courage, and discernment—excellent life skills to have long after thoughts of flying reindeer have passed.

By Judi Ketteler December 20, 2019

Source: Should You be Lying to Your Kids About Santa?

96.3K subscribers
Has your child been lying to you lately? If so, it might not be as big of a problem as you think. In this episode of Mom Docs, Dr. Dehra Harris, a Pediatric Psychiatrist with Washington University at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, shares some insight on why children lie and what you can do about it. If your child has been lying to you, it’s important to take the age of the child into consideration. In young children, lying marks the beginning of imagination, which is a normal developmental stage. Your child’s lying only becomes a problem when it’s part of a persistent pattern. If your situation involves your child lying often, try these tactics: Approach your child and, without getting emotional, present the information you know to be true. For example, if your child took money off the countertop, you can say, “There is money missing from the counter top. I need you to help me figure this out.” This approach leaves room for two different outcomes: #1. Your child lets you know what happened and they explain their story. #2. You inform them that you know what happened and they do not admit they lied. While both of these situations deserve a consequence, the second should be greater. Repeating this method when your child lies can help put the problem behind you. Visit Children’s MomDocs (a blog by mom physicians at St Louis Children’s Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine): http://bit.ly/2fCVkzp Learn more about St. Louis Children’s Hospital – Find a Physician, Get Directions, Request an Appointment, See current ER Wait Times http://bit.ly/2g56onQ Want to hear more from St. Louis Children’s Hospital? Subscribe to the St Louis Children’s Hospital YouTube Channel: http://bit.ly/2cC0jgg Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stlchildrens Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/STLChildrens Learn More About Donating on YouTube: https://support.google.com/youtube/? The St. Louis Children’s Hospital YouTube channel is intended as a reference and information source only. If you suspect you have a health problem, you should seek immediate care with the appropriate health care professionals. The information in this web site is not a substitute for professional care, and must not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. For help finding a doctor, St. Louis Children’s Hospital Answer Line may be of assistance at 314.454.KIDS (5437). The opinions expressed in these videos are those of the individual writers, not necessarily St. Louis Children’s Hospital or Washington University School of Medicine. BJC HealthCare and Washington University School of Medicine assume no liability for the information contained in this website or for its use.

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Teach Your Kids to Value Empathy Over Tenacity

If you watched Coco Gauff’s third round loss in the US Open on Saturday, chances are you won’t remember the score or many details about the match itself; you’ll mostly remember how Naomi Osaka consoled the 15-year-old after her defeat.

And if you’re Osaka’s parent, you should be more proud of the kindness and empathy she showed than the big win she earned. Just two days before the sweet moment between the athletes, writer Anna Nordberg wrote for the Washington Post that parents put too much focus on their kids developing tenacity or grit and not enough focus on developing conscientious characteristics.

Clinical psychologist Lisa Damour tells Nordberg that what actually makes adults happy barely correlates with academic or professional success:

What it does correlate with is quality of relationships, a sense of purpose and feeling that you are good at what you do. “If you walk that back to look at what you can do as a parent, it’s raising conscientious kids,” Damour says. “When you’re conscientious, you tend to have better relationships, you’re caring, you’re not dishonest and you pursue things that have meaning to you.”

Maybe it seems obvious. Of course we want our kids to be good people. Of course we want them to be empathetic and kind and caring. We want our kids to work hard at their goals—even when things get tough—but we don’t want them to be the type of people who are more focused on their personal success than the feelings of those around them.

But apparently we’re not doing a very good job of getting that point across to our kids, at least not according to a 2014 study detailed in The Atlantic:

While 96 percent of parents say they want to raise ethical, caring children, and cite the development of moral character as “very important, if not essential,” 80 percent of the youths surveyed reported that their parents “are more concerned about achievement or happiness than caring for others.” Approximately the same percentage reported that their teachers prioritize student achievement over caring. Surveyed students were three times as likely to agree as disagree with the statement “My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my class than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.”

So how can we not only value empathy but also encourage it? Well, we start by modeling it. Kids are more likely to do as we do, not do as we say. Let them see you shoveling the sidewalk for your elderly neighbor, volunteering at the local food bank and buying gifts for families in need during the holidays. And when you catch them being kind—praise, praise, praise.

But Nordberg also writes that we should actually create opportunities that “encourage empathy, collaboration and kindness rather than waiting for them to spontaneously happen.” We should be empathy enablers.

Enlist older kids to help with younger kids, whether it’s at home with siblings or at school as mentors or tutors. Involve them in your own problem-solving brainstorms. Clear off the kitchen table and spread out the thank-you card supplies so they’ll actually write the thank-you notes. Seek out moments in which you can encourage them to be kind, and they’ll build those empathetic muscles while also recognizing the value you place on those characteristics.

And then, one day, your kid might be the tennis star who consoles their opponent while the world watches and admires.

 

By: Meghan Moravcik Walbert

Source: Teach Your Kids to Value Empathy Over Tenacity

Empathy is a skill that parents can work to teach their children through encouragement and emotional development activities. In this episode of Mom Docs, Dr. Dehra Harris shares a few tips for parents to ensure children develop healthy emotional habits and empathy skills. Visit Children’s MomDocs (a blog by mom physicians at St Louis Children’s Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine):
Learn more about St. Louis Children’s Hospital – Find a Physician, Get Directions, Request an Appointment, See current ER Wait Times http://bit.ly/2ksGOMK
Want to hear more from St. Louis Children’s Hospital? Subscribe to the St Louis Children’s Hospital YouTube Channel: http://bit.ly/2aW48k9 Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stlchildrens
Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/STLChildrens
Learn More About Donating on YouTube: https://support.google.com/youtube/?p… “The St. Louis Children’s Hospital YouTube station is intended as a reference and information source only. If you suspect you have a health problem, you should seek immediate care with the appropriate health care professionals. The information in this web site is not a substitute for professional care, and must not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. For help finding a doctor, St. Louis Children’s Hospital Answer Line may be of assistance at 314.454.KIDS (5437). The opinions expressed in these videos are those of the individual writers, not necessarily St. Louis Children’s Hospital or Washington University School of Medicine. BJC HealthCare and Washington University School of Medicine assume no liability for the information contained in this web site or for its use.”

 

Developing Empathy through Service-Learning | Empathy Magazine

In contrast, I was hoping that through this experience at Washington, my students would develop something more critical to their future, and the future of the children in their classrooms: empathy. To develop empathy, however, my students would need to learn to listen carefully and with respect to the experiences of people who are different from them. I knew that developing empathy would be much more challenging than simple sympathy.

Source: Developing Empathy through Service-Learning | Empathy Magazine

How to Help Your Child Develop Empathy – Claire Lerner

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Empathy is the ability to imagine how someone else is feeling in a particular situation and respond with care. This is a very complex skill to develop. Being able to empathize with another person means that a child:

  • Understands that he is a separate individual, his own person;
  • Understands that others can have different thoughts and feelings than he has;
  • Recognizes the common feelings that most people experience—happiness, surprise, anger, disappointment, sadness, etc.;
  • Is able to look at a particular situation (such as watching a peer saying good-bye to a parent at child care) and imagine how he—and therefore his friend—might feel in this moment; and
  • Can imagine what response might be appropriate or comforting in that particular situation—such as offering his friend a favorite toy or teddy bear to comfort her.

Milestones in Empathy

Understanding and showing empathy is the result of many social-emotional skills that are developing in the first years of life. Some especially important milestones include:

  • Establishing a secure, strong, loving relationship with you. Feeling accepted and understood by you helps your child learn how to accept and understand others as he grows.
  • Beginning to use social referencing, at about 6 months old. This is when a baby will look to a parent or other loved one to gauge his or her reaction to a person or situation. For example, a 7-month-old looks carefully at her father as he greets a visitor to their home to see if this new person is good and safe. The parent’s response to the visitor influences how the baby responds. (This is why parents are encouraged to be upbeat and reassuring—not anxiously hover—when saying good-bye to children at child care. It sends the message that “this is a good place” and “you will be okay.”) Social referencing, or being sensitive to a parent’s reaction in new situations, helps the babies understand the world and the people around them.
  • Developing a theory of mind. This is when a toddler (between 18 and 24 months old) first realizes that, just as he has his own thoughts, feelings and goals, others have their own thoughts and ideas, which may be different from his.
  • Recognizing one’s self in a mirror. This occurs between 18 and 24 months and signals that a child has a firm understanding of himself as a separate person.

What You Can Do To Nurture Empathy in Your Toddler

Empathize with your child. Are you feeling scared of that dog? He is a nice dog but he is barking really loud. That can be scary. I will hold you until he walks by.

Talk about others’ feelings. Kayla is feeling sad because you took her toy car. Please give Kayla back her car and then you choose another one to play with.

Suggest how children can show empathy. Let’s get Jason some ice for his boo-boo.

Read stories about feelings.

Some suggestions include:

  • I Am Happy: A Touch and Feel Book of Feelings
  • My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss
  • How Are You Peeling by Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers
  • Feelings by Aliki
  • The Feelings Book by Todd Parr
  • Baby Happy Baby Sad by Leslie Patricelli
  • Baby Faces by DK Publishing
  • When I Am/Cuando Estoy by Gladys Rosa-Mendoza

Be a role model. When you have strong, respectful relationships and interact with others in a kind and caring way, your child learns from your example.

Use “I” messages. This type of communication models the importance of self-awareness: I don’t like it when you hit me. It hurts.

Validate your child’s difficult emotions. Sometimes when our child is sad, angry, or disappointed, we rush to try and fix it right away, to make the feelings go away because we want to protect him from any pain. However, these feelings are part of life and ones that children need to learn to cope with. In fact, labeling and validating difficult feelings actually helps children learn to handle them: You are really mad that I turned off the TV. I understand. You love watching your animal show. It’s okay to feel mad. When you are done being mad you can choose to help me make a yummy lunch or play in the kitchen while mommy makes our sandwiches. This type of approach also helps children learn to empathize with others who are experiencing difficult feelings.

Use pretend play. Talk with older toddlers about feelings and empathy as you play. For example, you might have your child’s stuffed hippo say that he does not want to take turns with his friend, the stuffed pony. Then ask your child: How do you think pony feels? What should we tell this silly hippo?

Think through the use of “I’m sorry.” We often insist that our toddlers say “I’m sorry” as a way for them to take responsibility for their actions. But many toddlers don’t fully understand what these words mean. While it may feel “right” for them to say “I’m sorry”, it doesn’t necessarily help toddlers learn empathy. A more meaningful approach can be to help children focus on the other person’s feelings: Chandra, look at Sierra—she’s very sad. She’s crying. She’s rubbing her arm where you pushed her. Let’s see if she is okay. This helps children make the connection between the action (shoving) and the reaction (a friend who is sad and crying).

Be patient. Developing empathy takes time. Your child probably won’t be a perfectly empathetic being by age three. (There are some teenagers and even adults who haven’t mastered this skill completely either!) In fact, a big and very normal part of being a toddler is focusing on me, mine, and I. Remember, empathy is a complex skill and will continue to develop across your child’s life.

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