One of the most common phrases to drop out of parents’ mouths unprovoked is that children lie. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that I’d be retired somewhere wondering why the hoi polloi keep moaning and groaning about the cost of living. Let’s talk about why believing that children lie is dangerous and why we need to shift to a culture of believing them.
Why we need to believe children
They are vulnerable
Children are the most vulnerable demographic. They are 100% dependent on the adults around them to have their needs met. If these adults don’t meet their needs, they are on their own. They have barely existent rights and freedoms with everything about their lives being under the control of adults from what they eat and what they wear to how they spend their time and their bodily autonomy. When an adult controls these things about another adult, we call that abuse.
This level of vulnerability demands we believe them. Sure, children lie, and for many reasons including developmental levels, but adults lie too and no one dismisses them en masse. The least adults can do is investigate every claim, especially the serious ones.
From a safety standpoint, you want your children to know with every fiber of their being that if they tell you something you will not only believe them but take it seriously. Abusers rely on children’s fear that they will not be believed. Abusers actively stoke this fear and use it to keep children quiet. Your children knowing you believe them is one of the best things you can do for them when it comes to their safety.
If your children know you believe them, it builds a culture of trust between you and also in your home. It creates an environment where children feel heard and seen which strengthens their trust in you. Children too often are not taken seriously and feel especially in cultures where children are “to be seen and not heard.” Being seen and taken seriously also builds their confidence, not just in themselves but also in you. Believing children is also critical for their emotional well-being. It helps them develop a healthy sense of self-worth. This also strengthens your relationship with them. Trust is foundational in every relationship including the parent-child one.
Encourages honesty and healthy communication
When you believe your children, it encourages them to be honest because they know they’re taken seriously. They want their word to count for something. They understand from you the value of being truthful. It empowers them to speak up and advocate for themselves. Listening to children and believing them also promotes healthy communication skills. Believing children can also be a way to help develop their problem-solving skills. By listening to them and believing them, you can help them navigate challenges and work with them to solve whatever issues they’re dealing with.
People lie and children are people too. Developmentally children are still figuring things out, trying to push boundaries. Just like adults have white lies which are largely inconsequential, children have others that they shouldn’t be judged by. You just need to judge each as you go. Overall, believing them and letting them know you believe is one of the best things you can do for your relationship with them and for their personal safety. Children are far too vulnerable to just be written off as liars en masse. Believe children.
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