Parents should be fact checkers
Mom Slabach was a sleuth. She said her child was as capable of becoming an “Adolf Hitler” as Hitler himself. She might have trusted her kids, but she didn’t trust the devil. Even when her kids were grown, she had ways of obtaining information about them. When Dave showed up on his motorcyle for a visit at her house, she meandered outside and walked around that bike, looking for scratches and dents. Mom knew her son was not going to divulge information, so she became a fact-seeker. Mom kept her eyes and her ears open, for sure. She knew a lot more about what her kids were doing than they thought she did. I learned a great deal about fact-checking from her!
How I Became a Fact Checker
There was the day my kid came home from school and decried the Homework Before Play rule.
“It isn’t fair!” he stomped his foot.
The kids spend most of the day sitting still in a classroom and the least I could do is give them time to play when they first come home from school. He had a point.
Yet my point was better. “Just a little bit of play” soon became “We just want to finish this inning!”
No matter how much time I allotted, they always wanted a little bit more. Suppertime came and homework was incomplete. Homework Before Play guaranteed arrival of bedtime without frustration. But no, because we didn’t follow that rule, bedtime got pushed back. You know what happened the next morning? Getting kids up and rolling was harder. It took even more effort on my part because I didn’t want them to miss the bus – because missing the bus required extra time and energy for me.
You know what cinched it for me? I failed to check the class schedule of my elementary-grade son. You know what his last period of the day was? PE!
His “need” for playtime after sitting in school for so long was null and void. He had just finished playing and participating in sports in PE before he got on the bus to ride the four miles home. Imagine my chagrin when I realized I had been duped – all because I didn’t think to check his schedule to see if he was telling the truth. I had not checked the facts!
Why parents should be fact checkers
It happens more than we realize. If you’re not a fact checker, your kids are probably pulling the wool over your eyes.
While it take more time, it’s worth the effort to be a fact checker. Being a fact checker helps your kids be truthful from the get-go.
Fact Checkers in Action
One evening my friend asked her daughter if she’d brushed her teeth at bedtime. The child assured mom she had. Mom believed her because as a child, this mom rarely, if ever, told a lie to her parents. Dad saw the look on his daughter’s face and made her turn around, look him in the eye, and answer the question again. There are ways to tell if your kid is being truthful. Is the toothbrush wet? Is there evidence of brushing teeth in the sink? Does the kid’s mouth smell clean? There you have it.
Friends of ours had a daughter who lost her cell phone as a consequence of actions. A few days later, daughter informed mom she needed the internet for homework. Problem was, the only internet available was via Mom’s cell phone. Without asking questions, Mom gave her phone up so the child was able to do homework. Had mom checked facts, the child’s lie would be evident. Mom did no fact-checking, and the kid surfed the internet most of the evening. Smart kid, that one. Not so smart mom.
My friend gave permission for her daughter to go with friends one evening. Mom knew how far it was to the destination, and daughter had a curfew. Before her teenager left for the evening, mom checked the odometer on the car. After the teenager came home (before curfew), mom checked the odometer again. Strangely, a ten-mile trip had turned into a 50-mile event that evening. Not so strangely, this sleuth mom confronted her kid – and confession was given. Imagine if mom never checked and assumed her honest daughter was telling the truth. One lie usually leads to another. That’s why we need to be fact checkers.
Fact Checking Unveils Truth
Believing a child’s version of what happened without checking facts is detrimental. Many a parent has gone to bat for her child only to discover later that the kid wasn’t telling the truth. Sometimes all a parent needs to say is, “I’ll need to ask your teacher (or your friend) if that’s how they remember it happened,” before jumping on a broken bandwagon.
A school project or memory work from church that was “just assigned last week” needs to be verified before a parent thinks a child is treated unfairly. The blaming game makes liars out of kids – and we as parents too often fall prey to that ploy. When a child is disciplined – whether it’s at someone else’s house, in school, or in a class at church, a parent does well to become a fact checker instead of just assuming it was the other kid’s fault, or the teacher was being unfair, or the kid really didn’t hear instructions.
Innocent until proven guilty by fact checking
It’s much easier to assume that our child is telling the truth than it is to assume he is not. Yet the essense of human nature is to be untruthful when it is to our advantage. The essense of human nature is also to do as little as necessary to get by. We should not assume that our kids won’t be tempted with lying when we know how easily we are tempted of the same.
We do well to model truthfulness to our kids when they can hear and when we think they can’t hear us. It’s easier to expect something of them when we lead the way ourselves. Proverbs tells us that the first person sounds like he’s telling the truth until his neighbor comes and cross-examines him.
With our own children, we need to be ready and willing to cross-examine the stories we are told, no matter how good and right they sound at the time. It’s better that we cross-examine our kids when they’re young so they will learn to be truthful. It might take more work, but it might save us anguish later if it saves them being cross-examined in court when they are older.
P.S. For my half dozen out there reading this, I am fully aware that I knew less than I thought I did – but probably more than you realize!