Children need to learn lessons in truthfulness

February 13, 2004|by LISA PREJEAN

"Mommy, I didn't put this towel on the floor. Somebody else did."

Perhaps it was her defensive tone. Maybe it was the unsure look in her eyes.

It might have been the fact that I had yet to ask about the towel on the floor. Hadn't even noticed it. I was too occupied with placing freshly laundered towels in the closet.

My 5-year-old's statement captured my attention, and as I studied her, I knew she was up to something.

Why would she mention the towel and then stand there looking like she had been caught?

What did she do?

I looked around for some clues and noticed the terrycloth bath mat balled up in a corner.


When I asked her why the mat was in the corner and not at the tub's edge, she said, "I didn't put it there."


I smiled and said, "I didn't ask who put it there. I asked why it is there."

She seemed to relax a bit and quietly said, "It's wet."

Comprehension dawned.

"Oh, I see. This nice, dry towel would feel better on a person's feet than a cold, wet bath mat, wouldn't it?"

She nodded.

"Sweetheart, I know I've asked you to use only one towel per bath, but if you feel like you need another towel for some reason, that's OK. Just ask me. We can talk about household rules. Sometimes exceptions can be made. However, there's one rule that we never should break. We must always be truthful with one another. That means we won't make up stories - even when we feel bad about breaking a rule. Do you understand?"

She nodded again, flashed a relieved look in my direction and gave me a hug.

So, I thought she had conquered Truthfulness 101.

Two days later as I passed her in the hallway, she seemed to be holding her arm in a strange way, as if she were hiding something.

"What are you doing?" I asked with a smile.

As she shook her head, a barely audible "Nothing" escaped from her lips.

Boy, if that's not a red flag for a mom, I don't know what is.

"I see. What do you have in your hand?"

She pulled it further behind her back and said, "Nothing."

As she turned to go down the stairs, I saw a flash of something blue. She was "borrowing" her brother's comb. I quietly followed her to the playroom and waited.

She looked at me and asked if I was going to leave.

"Not until you show me what is in your hand."

She reluctantly handed me the comb.

As it turned out, she wanted to tame her toy horse's mane. She knew her brother would not consent to this. The thought of pink and baby blue "hair" remnants would be enough to make any 8-year-old boy lock up his comb.

So, once again, we had a talk about honesty.

"Not only is it wrong to tell a lie, it's also wrong to hide the truth, honey. I know you didn't want me to find out that you were borrowing your brother's comb without asking, but it was wrong to hide the truth from me."

She sadly looked at the comb and then looked at me. "I want one of these."

"I thought so. Why didn't you just ask for one? You could use your allowance to buy one or perhaps Mommy could buy you one sometime as a reward for good behavior. You shouldn't take someone else's without asking first, though. Do you understand?"

She nodded, flashed another relieved look in my direction and gave me another hug.

I think our truthfulness lesson will be ongoing, and that's OK.

She needs to learn to trust me enough to be honest, even when she feels like breaking the rules.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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