The Yes Or No Answer

Have you ever asked a child a yes or no answer? If it was your own child, there is a very good chance that you did not get one, or if you did get one that it was a lie.

This is not to say that your child is especially dishonest. It is just the nature of humans that they will lie when confronted with a yes/no answer. Just as they will make no decision when confronted with a choice of two desirable outcomes.

Yet so many of the interactions and interfaces in our lives depend upon a clear-cut answer or decision. We accept this on the road or in the air – with flammable or poisonous things – in an operating theatre or a battlefield. Why can we not instil the same honesty in our young?

Well, partly because we are seen as the authority that punishes any wrongdoing – whether  deliberate or mistaken. And we are more powerful than most magistrates. There is no statute book for law within a family, despite what someone may say. The parent still gets away with whatever the child doesn’t. With this prospect, the easier answer is always sought – lie or truth. There is a primal cynicism in the child.

How to change this? Well, when you want to know the truth but the question is not one of literal life or death, ask it. And accept the answer. And then go on – in a calm and logical manner, to ask the next question, and the next, and accept the lie as it gets deeper and deeper. When you have come to the last logical conclusion of the lie – that the neighbours really did come in and eat the last of the cake from the pantry or that the dog really did eat the homework, set about compelling the child to stand and confront the neighbours at their own front door with the accusation…or start walking the dog until either it spits up the paperwork or shits it out. However it all plays out, and whatever lesson is learned, you will have given the child unqualified support to learn it.

And it may only need to be learned once.

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