Friday, July 09, 2010

Lying to Kids to Educate Them

I overheard a conversation while picking blueberries and I had some instant flashbacks of this same phenomenon.

I have a pet peeve about parents lying to young children with false facts in order to try to educate them. This is an oxymoron to me.

Yesterday we were at a local farm picking blueberries. Nearby were things that my ten year old asked about. They were giant balls in bright colors (about three feet across) and they had creepy huge eyes on them. They were on a tall pole. Hanging from under the pair, was several long streamers of metallic plastic waving in the breeze. I explained to my son that those were things meant to try to scare off the birds so they don't eat the blueberries.

Then all of a sudden I thought I was in the middle of The Birds. Horrid screechings of panic calls of birds went off loudly from speakers on a pole about twenty feet from us. It went through a series of different birds, some of which I recognized. One of them was a high pitched horrible thing that was brutal to my ears that sounded like nothing real in nature and sent shivers down my spine. They all sounded fake, metallic and robotic. My son asked what was up with that and again I explained it was to scare off the birds, apparently (using my common sense). This recording went off about every ten minutes.

After about an hour a new family arrived and when the sound went off the mother of the girl (about three years old) started up a conversation, "Oh listen to the birdies" and other such patronizing down-talking. They were standing right near the speaker and I cannot believe the mother was lying to the child trying to educate her about birds and nature by referencing the fake birds in that manner.

The flashback I got was vague recollections of other times that mothers and fathers have been overheard saying really stupid stuff to young children trying to sound like experts when what they were telling them was out and out false and completely not believable to any average adult, so I have a hard time thinking the adults really think it is true.

I do not think it is educating children to lie to them and make it sound like something educational. It's better to say nothing at all or, "I don't know" if the child asks a question. It's crazy to make up garbage and to initiate the conversation with it.

If you want to talk about birds, just mention something you see while the two of you are out getting the mail. While driving if you see something, comment on it and point it out. Small things like that are easy to do. And whatever questions result from your child, you can answer them or just say, "I don't know but we can read about it to find the answer, that's a good question".

Please don't try to educate a child by telling lies and ridiculous statements. Teaching young children things like a crazy loud bird sound of panic calls that sound like bad horror movie that is coming out of a speaker a few feet away from you is a bird in the field is just outrageous. This is teaching a child to override their common sense to believe a fact stated by an adult. (Remember I said they were very close to the speaker, it was really loud, and fake sounding.)

If a parent wants to make idle chatter with their child there are plenty of things to make small talk about.
Intentionally lying and making it sound like an educational and interesting fact when it’s BS, I believe, is basically training and conditioning the child to begin to accept any fact told to them by an authority figure. Blind faith to just accept what is being said is not good. This is why I always have told my kids the ‘why’ behind things. If they ask a simple question answer simply and stick in a little explanation of why. If they ask more, answer them. Yet don’t make everything in your day a little lesson. That’s overkill.

I refuse to think that really this was the result of a stupid or ignorant adult. I just refuse.

Chalk this up as another example for my file of "things that a naturally smart child's own parents do to make their child stupider".

Oh and to end the story and to tell a little of how I relate to my kids, since my ten year old son overheard that whole thing and commented on how the parent thought it was real birds, I explained to him how I never lied to him when he was little and always was truthful. (Well now that I’m writing this I realize that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy are exceptions. He knows the real deal on those now.) But for the rest of it I let him know I never would lie to him and make dumb talk or use that weird tone of voice like that mother used, that sickening sweet down-talking tone that so many adults use on little kids.


Stay At Home Mom at Work said...

Oh my true. I find that I often don't know the answers to some of their questions, but always try to be as honest as I can and respond that I just don't know, and that we can look that answer up. Some questions, we even had to ask a priest on as we weren't up on our Church teaching! ouch! But I do think that as a Mom or Dad, admitting that we 'just don't know' is tough to do to our kid....and pride takes over. These parents who out and out lie to their children to explain things they themselves don't know are simply uncomfortable admitting their ignorance. I think there is an insecurity there.

I agree with you in your statement that these parents then expect the children to take whatever an adult has said to be truth, without ever using their own clues around them. And I think that can be dangerous in this day and age.

Children need to be educated, using common sense and being able to make decisions based on the clues around them.....preparing them for the world one step at a time.

Just my .02, good post!

Stephanie said...

I really enjoy your blog but I have to disagree on your opinion of that mom. I think the issue comes with the age of her child. Her child may be just learning bird sounds. Perhaps the mom is using those noises as a reinforcement of what birds sound like-- even if it is altered (so are most kids toys). I'm sure the girl won't grow up to think that birds sounds like robots. Now, if she had a ten year old with her, I could see the faux pas (or even a 5 yr old for that matter). But I think there's some wiggle room with a 3 yr old. perhaps also, she just didn't want her daughter to be frightened of the sounds so she related them to something familiar.

Just a thought. Perhaps you heard more going on with that mama than what was written in the blog. Listen to the birdies just doesn't sound like such a crime from my end.

cookievf said...

Hi Christine -

I found you through your other blog, one that you may no longer be updating?

There's a link to a 2006 post of yours on Domino Altering that I came across on an etsy site! LOL

I just had to write because I think we both live in CT? I am in northern New Milford and also got very involved with rubber stamping, altered art & ATC's over the years! Please drop in and say hello.

- vicki

Aimee said...

Something I often say to my kids is "I'm not sure. Let's look it up." I would much rather say that then make up some false fact that they will go on believing for the rest of their lives!