Saturday, 7 May 2016

Lying, empathy and doughnuts

You can tell that there is a lot going on in my life at the moment because I seem to go in these waves of writing loads of blog posts and then nothing for months and months. The weird thing is that I tend to write more when I am busier. Maybe it is so that I get my thoughts down on a page so I don’t forget in the mad rush of life. Well whatever it is, here is another rambling of mine.

It seems that as parents we are really (and I mean really) bad at telling when our children are lying. A recent new study mentioned in the Daily Mail here and discussed in the Guardian here says that parents are only likely to spot their children lying 1/5th of the time as compared to other adults and even other adults are pretty bad at stopping a lie, getting it correct only half the time. I find this fascinating and scary all at the same time as I wonder does this follow up into adulthood where we still can’t tell when we are being lied to.

I only wonder this because again recent experiences with my friends and family have made me wonder how we overcome this idea that we have to always take a side in disagreements, arguments or any sort of dispute/break-up, etc. As a Mum of two children of different genders I suppose it might be easier for me to understand from both sides:

1. how would I feel if my daughter came home and said that something awful had happened with her boyfriend?
2. how would I feel if my son came home and described the above situation but from the point of view of my daughter's boyfriend?

Luckily my dd is still quite young and although older my ds does not have a girlfriend but this obviously doesn't have to a girlfriend/boyfriend scenario, it could be any disagreement or falling out.

The lying study clearly shows that as parents we always want to believe that our children are telling the truth but not only is there the fact that we are so rubbish at spotting when they are not BUT there is also ALWAYS at least 2 sides to a dispute and we are NEVER going to know the full story.

This is where we, as parents, can learn to be supportive but also be aware that we are flawed in spotting lies and not great at holding ourselves, and therefore others, accountable for their actions. I love this video by Brene Brown about accountability and blame. I used to be a blamer (more about this later!!) There is always a place for accountability for everyone but this involves communication: if you don’t communicate your feelings and just allocate blame everyone loses. The problem is that speaking up can be really difficult for some people (see my previous post about minimisers and maximisers) and so there needs to be an awareness of this in every relationship.

This is the type of education we can give our children growing up but also we can support our grown up children by providing a safe environment where they can be heard when things are not going so well in their relationships. We can help by maybe pointing them in the direction of tools/techniques for better communication, accountability and space in which to have healthy relationships where they can help their friends/partners grow rather than blaming, belittling and dysfunction and as parents wer can do this with love and compassion.

If we can do this with empathy rather than sympathy (another great Brene Brown/RSA short video) then even better. Empathy drives connection (feeling WITH someone) by allowing the following:

1. Perspective taking - ability to take the perspective of another person (as mentioned above)
2. Perspective taking - recognising their perspective as their true
3. Staying out of judgement
4. Recognising emotion in others and communicating that

Obviously all these things can be really difficult but helping someone find these qualities when what they really want to do is blame someone for something is never going to help in the long run. Believe me, I have tried to remove the part I played in a difficult relationship on a fair few occasions. I liked to blame so I didn't have to take responsibility for my part. However I am always 50% responsible for anything that happens in any relationship and so are you. Owning that fact and being accountable for that will help you grow as a person and is such an important lesson to tell our children, young and old.

It isn't easy: I am still someone who tends towards blame as a modus operandi but I now have the knowledge and tools to help me to find a different way and realise that blaming works for a while but like eating a whole bag of doughnuts in one go, it seems a good idea at the time but after a while it doesn't feel so good. One of the easiest techniques for this is putting myself in someone else’s shoes (or number 1 above.)

Such an easy technique but so effective (and I always like the easy solutions!!) With my dispute idea wouldn't it be great to really feel how it would be to hear the other side. To wonder (if it is your son who has told you their tale of woe) how it would feel to hear the side of the other person (imagining they are also your child) who is telling their version of the same tale of woe. Would you do things differently? Knowing that you are never going to know the whole truth would you be more kind, gentle and hold your child more accountable for their own part in the tale? Also knowing that you probably aren't going to know when you are being told a lie would you be more compassion to ALL concerned?

There are always at least 2 sides to every story and those 2 sides can be from very different viewpoints. This is something I have come to realise listening to my own children talk about a disagreement they have had. Dd’s version is always TOTALLY different to ds’s much as my take on an argument with dh is always different to what I thought had occurred. Again this is something I try to model to my children on a regular basis in the hope that as they grow into adulthood they will own up when they have been complicit in some behaviour that wasn’t wholly healthy.

Luckily they have two parents who are very different who are very active in explaining this type of thing. I am always telling people that they only thing I “educate” my children in as a home educating parent is social situations and how to be authentic, accountable and empathetic in all their dealings with other people. Even more lucky for them they also have a multitude of fantastic role-models in their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends’ parents and people that I work with. Home education also means that they can spend a lot of time with all these extra people when they would normally be at school.

Anyway here is an interesting post by Alfie Kohn author of Punished by Rewards. This book is well worth a read if you want to know why rewarding children for doing stuff either with money, stars or whatever other system TOTALLY doesn't work in the long run. However the blog post is about types of motivation and love. Quite relevant to my last blog post about getting the love you want or not!!

And here is the great Doughnut parody by Dustin & Genevieve who are awesome. Enjoy the light relief!!!

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