Don’t Lie to Your Children to Get Them to Do Things, Compel Them.

Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices – Colossians 3:9

Do not deceive children. Many are unaware of the evil consequences which result from this common practice. A physician once called to extract a tooth from a child. The little boy seeing the formidable instruments, and anticipating the pain, was exceedingly frightened, and refused to open his mouth. After much fruitless solicitation, the physician said, “Perhaps there is no need of pulling the tooth. Let me just rub it a little with my handkerchief, and it may be all that is necessary—it will not hurt you in the least.

The boy, trusting his word, opened his mouth. The physician, concealing his instrument in his handkerchief, seized hold of the tooth and wrenched it out. The parents highly applauded his artifice. But the man cheated the child. He abused his confidence; and he inflicted an injury upon his moral feelings not soon to be effaced. Will that physician get his handkerchief into the mouth of the child again? Will he believe what the physician may hereafter say? And when told that it is wicked to say that which is not true, will not the remembrance of the doctor’s falsehood be fresh in his mind? And while conscious that his parents approved of the deception, will he not feel it to be right for him to deceive, that he may accomplish his desires? This practice is attended with the most ruinous consequences. It unavoidably teaches the child to despise his parents. After he has detected them in one falsehood, he will not believe them when they speak the truth! It destroys his tenderness of conscience; and it teaches arts of deception. And what are the advantages? Why, in one particular instance, the point is gained.

Let compulsion be resorted to when necessary—but deception never. If a child cannot place implicit confidence in his parent, most assuredly no confidence can be reposed in the child. Is it possible for a mother to practice arts of deception and falsehood, and at the same time her daughter be forming a character of frankness and of truth? Who can for a moment suppose it? We must be what we wish our children to be. They will form their characters from ours!

A mother was once trying to persuade her little son to take some medicine. The medicine was very unpalatable, and she, to induce him to take it, declared it did not taste bad. He did not believe her. He knew, by sad experience, that her word was not to be trusted. A gentleman and friend who was present, took the spoon, and said, “James, this is medicine, and it tastes very badly. I would not like to take it, but I would, if necessary. You have courage enough to swallow something which does not taste good, have you not?”

“Yes,” said James, looking a little less sulky. “But it is very bitter indeed.”

“I know it,” said the gentleman, “Perhaps you never tasted any thing much worse.” The gentleman then tasted the medicine himself, and said, “It is really very unpleasant. But now let us see if you have not resolution enough to take it, bad as it is.”

The boy hesitatingly took the spoon.

“It is, really, very bitter,” said the gentleman; “but the best way is to summon all your resolution, and down with it at once, like a man.”

James made, in reality, a great effort for a child, and swallowed the dose. And who will this child most respect—his deceitful mother, or the honest dealing stranger? And who will he hereafter most readily believe? It ought, however, to be remarked, that had the child been properly trained, he would at once, and without a murmur, have taken what his mother presented. It is certainly, however, a supposable case, that the child might, after all the arguments of the gentleman, still have refused to do his duty. What course should then be pursued? Resort to compulsion—but never to deceit. We cannot deceive our children without seriously injuring them, and destroying our own influence. Frank and open dealing is the only safe policy in family government, as well as on the wider theatre of life. The underhanded arts and cunning maneuvers of the deceiver are sure, in the end, to promote his own overthrow. Be sincere and honest—and you are safe. The only sure way of securing beneficial results, is by virtuous and honorable means.

John Abbott, The Christian Mother