Two has always had a problem with truth. While I can count on one hand the times One has lied to me, that is not the case with Two. He was that five year old, smeared with chocolate from his eyebrows to his chin, who insisted that he did not take the cookies – it must have been his brother. Even when confronted with his chocolate-covered face in the mirror, he would persist in his declarations of false innocence.
Now he lies, not that frequently, but just enough for it to bother me horribly. I’ve tried straight-out punishment, I’ve tried “if you tell mommy the truth, sweetheart, she will not punish you for breaking your brother’s toy.” Nothing works. Finally, I think I know why. At least, I know enough to try something else, and see if that is the solution.
I need to stop yelling at my kids. Period. Never, ever again. Why? Because Two’s lies are his attempt to make me think he’s perfect, and to avoid the punishment he knows that comes with missing the mark. And what part of the punishment does he hate the most? You guessed it: when I raise my voice. Even when I’m not saying anything exceptionally cruel (I’m usually shouting: “what on earth made you do this?” or “do you know how long this will take to clean?”) he will do anything to avoid what he calls “that mean voice”.
So Two’s sin of lying has helped me see my sin of yelling more clearly. And yes, it is a sin. If you have a hard time thinking of it in that way, let me tell you: I would never, ever raise my voice to my husband about the trivial things that cause me to do so with the boys. That, friends, is shameful.
Tony Woodlief writes in his book, Somewhere More Holy, about the two buckets we carry around with us as parents. One contains all the good things we want to pass along to our children, and one contains all our sins – everything that we don’t want them to catch from us. I think in this instance, my yelling – obviously in the latter bucket – has been passed onto Two in a way that is causing him to do anything, even sin himself, to get away from it. This grieves me. No matter how much I like a little hollering to get my point across, I can’t in good conscience continue. If I do, not only does Two suffer “that mean voice” he also gets more and more practice lying to avoid it. That is the very last place I want to take this child.
If you happen to think of it, say a small prayer for me once in a while, as I try to (ahem) moderate my voice. And I’ll let you know if any more fish stories land at my feet, or if this is, after all, the key to keeping Two honest.
Lord have mercy.