Catholic Activity: Elementary Parent Pedagogy: Truthfulness in Elementary School Children
We should reinforce our instruction about the virtue of truthfulness, implanting ideas such as the spirit of nobility and the practice of truth everyday. Included here are also guidelines about punishment and mercy regarding being untruthful.
Girls and boys whose minds are full of thoughts of our Lady and her Angels and the Little Flower should be interested in the bright and shining virtue of truthfulness, about which we shall do a little thinking this month. Here are some fundamental ideas for parents to implant:
Our aim should be to inculcate a spirit of nobility and idealism with regard to truth. We parents understand that God Himself is Truth and that, therefore, truth is sacred. It is not something which we can accept or deny, as we choose. In general conversation in the home subjects arise which involve historical truth, scientific truth, religious truth, or truth about some small detail connected with the household. If we always show that we respect truth, our children will grow up with a sense of loyalty to truth. The greatest thing we can do for them on this point is to develop in them such a habit of truthfulness that they will feel uncomfortable if they are not telling the truth or acting the truth.
If the spirit of love for truth is part of the life of our homes, it is not difficult to apply the principle of truth. telling to small matters. If a child begins to tell lies, or to be shifty and deceptive, we must show him that he is spoiling a precious ideal. If the children are to grow up with this right sense of truth, of course, they must be trained from early childhood. In small matters, as they arise, say always, "We tell the truth. We are brave and tell the truth even when it is hard." Show that, if the parent or teacher asks who is responsible for some fault which has been committed, there is something fine and noble in standing up and admitting, "I did it."
Punishment and Mercy
Usually lies are the result of fear. The child fears that he will be punished if he admits his fault. This question of punishment is a matter to which parents must give thought. If we have treated our children harshly and cruelly, we may expect them to lie through fear of punishment. If, on the other hand, we have so conducted ourselves that they love and respect us, they will not be likely to lie to us.
In normal cases, justice tempered with mercy works far better than the application of justice alone. Wise parents and teachers often can see their way to excusing a child if he apologizes. Some children are trained to say, "I did it. Please excuse me. I'm sorry." A parent does not lose his power by forgiving a child. Indeed mercy is a great quality and strengthens the authority of the parent who shows it. As Shakespeare said:
"The quality of mercy is not strain'd, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes: . . . . . . . . It is an attribute to God Himself; And earthly power doth then show likest God's When mercy seasons justice."
A child will not be easily tempted to tell a lie if he lives in a merciful atmosphere.
Suppose, however, that there is likelihood of punishment if an offender is discovered. Then courage is needed. Tell the child, "Be brave. Bear the pain of the punishment for our Lord's sake. Never be a coward. You are in training to be a soldier of Christ, full of courage."
Activity Source: Religion in the Home: Monthly Aids for the Parents of Elementary School Children by Katherine Delmonico Byles, Paulist Press, 1938