Parenting Advice: Did I do the right thing? (long, much dialog)

My son is 4, almost 5. As anyone who has been around kids of this age can tell you, they are full of questions. I typically give straight-forward, age appropriate answers. Actually, I usually ask if he wants the truth or if he wants me to make up an answer. He normally wants both. I try to make the made up answers funny, ridiculous or just relate cultural mythology.

Well last night, apropos of nothing and totally out of the blue, he asked me if I had ever stolen anything. I dodged at first, inquiring why he wanted to know.

“I was just wondering,” he said.

“Stealing is wrong,” I said.

“I know,” he answered. “But did you ever steal anything.”

“I’d rather not answer,” I replied.

Well that led to a discussion, more of a lecture from him, of why it was important to answer the question and that if I didn’t answer then he wouldn’t talk to me or be my friend.

“Yes,” I admitted. “Way back when I was in college I took a couple of empty beer kegs from behind a restaurant. It was wrong and I shouldn’t have done it and I’d never do it again.”


“I don’t have a good reason,” I told him.

“Then what are the bad reasons,” he wanted to know.

“We didn’t want to pay a deposit every time we bought beer,” I answered.

“Did you give it back,” he asked with a moralizing tone.

“No, the restaurant closed down.”

“Stealing is wrong,” he reiterated, ending the discussion.

So my question to the Teeming Millions is should I have handled this differently? Avoided answering? Told him it was none of his business?

(full disclosure: I have no kids)

No, telling him the truth when he asked for it can’t be wrong.

You have one smart kid there.

I don’t see anything wrong in how you handled it, apart from not wanting to discuss it in the first place. From what your son said, it doesn’t sound as if he’ll be traumatized by finding out that you did something stupid years ago.

In the long run, I really believe it’s best to be as honest as you can with your kids. One fairly small fib my mother told me - or maybe she just let me believe something without correcting me - led to a lot of bad feeling over the years. For the most part, you can’t go wrong with the truth.

I think you handled it well. You’ve as much admitted that just because mommy/daddy did it doesn’t necessarily make it right. But I believe it’s important that you didn’t lie about it. That only compounds the wrong.

/slight hijack/
Every once in a while, someone will give an answer to a query with the following qualifier…

“To be totally honest…”

My first thought is “why would you be anything BUT?”

I realize that perhaps it’s a trite phrase or perhaps they’re going to let me in on a but of honesty that they would normally keep to themselves.
Knowing that the GrizzCub will probably have my sense of irony and humor, I choose the words I use very carefully!
/here endeth the slight hijack/

/another slight hijack/
**Every once in a while, someone will give an answer to a query with the following qualifier…

“To be totally honest…”

My first thought is “why would you be anything BUT?”**

My personal experience talking here, but anytime I meet someone who uses that expression a lot (“to be totally honest” or a derivative), they usually turn out to be a liar.

Homebrew, ya done good. Ya didn’t volunteer but you didn’t lie either.

Smart kid, you got there!

Admitting that you’ve made mistakes in the past and learned from them is a good lesson.

I fear he will be outsmarting me by the time he’s 14. He’s already outwitted me once when he was 2 1/2. We were playing in the house and he suddenly said that he wanted socks on. So I put socks on his feet. A few minutes later, he said he wanted his shoes on. So I put shoes on his feet. A few minutes later he looked at his feet and exclaimed “Hey, I’ve got shoes on. I can go outside.”

I immediately realized I had been tricked as I remembered he had wanted to go out the evening before but I told him we couldn’t go out because we didn’t have shoes on.

WOW, I’m still not smart enough to pull something like that, I would probly whine and complain until I was allowed outside. Actually there is no probly about it.

Anyways, I definitely commend your honesty as a 17 year old whose parents still lie to him.

I think you’re right to have told him the story and show him the moral behind it. He will learn that people are fallible but can recover from their mistakes and grow up to be good people. Also he will learn that it is possible to talk openly with his parents about touchy subjects.

This is probably the most important part of the whole experience.

Wow that was clever! I don’t think I could’ve thought of that even now!

I commend you in being honest with your kid. It is really frustrating having parents that lie to you and it almost seems that parents can get into the habit of lying, even when their kids are past the age of ‘needing to be shielded’ from the world. My parents have always lied to me about stuff, as have my friends’ parents. They lie even today, and I’m 21. They make mistakes, but are so unwilling to admit it, it is horribly frustrating. I love them, but wish they would come down from their pedestal and just be truthful with me.

If anything this should open up the relationship between you are your kid so he knows that he can always come to you if he needs to and that you will give him an honest answer. He will also know that you are not some infallible being that will shun him for his mistakes. He knows that his parents make mistakes too and that you will understand and help him.

Good job.

Maybe in the future you might revisit this conversation, and explain why you were, at first, unwilling to discuss it. You can tell him that you felt ashamed of stealing because it was wrong and it was stupid. You can talk to him about how doing something wrong is a problem not just because you can get “in trouble” but because it can make you lose respect for yourself.

I say this because this was a lesson it took a LONG time for me to learn. For the longest time, I was “good” because I didn’t want to be caught and get the consequences. But I don’t think I started to be a truly good person until my behavior was motivated by a desire to be proud of my character and integrity.