“Johnny Johnny, Yes Papa………. Telling A Lie? No Papa! Open your mouth. Hahaha.”
Another commonly heard nursery rhyme in playschools. Also popular among parents who want to flaunt their tiny tots’ recitation skills at family get-togethers.
It used to always make me wonder when nurseries, play schools and public spaces were all about showcasing the right manners and good habits picked up by the children, why would some poet create such a catchy rhyme about one of the vices we want to avoid in our children! The rhyme is catchy, very well phrased and easy to act out. What makes this rhyme revolving around a vice worthwhile, popular and in fact memorable?
Recently, I went to a Parent Teacher Meeting with my 8 year old daughter to her school. As we were going through her answer sheets of periodic tests, our happiness was clearly visible as she had performed well in all subjects except one. So when we started examining the answer sheet closely, I realised she had copied the answer of a problem which she couldn’t solve from one of her friends. “You cheated?” I asked in a clearly perturbed tone. Unlike the smiling Johnny, my daughter too smiled faintly, didn’t look into my eyes and tried to evade the answer. I was devastated. “Please don’t tell papa.” She pleaded with me when she saw her father approaching us. I didn’t tell him but somehow even he could make it out looking at the answer sheet. My husband could handle his emotions better than me on our way back which made me too realise that I too needed to be calm. We let her celebrate her good performance in other subjects. Both of us did not utter a single word about the lie till we reached home.
Once we reached home we asked her straightaway about how and why she did so. Her reason was clear she had not understood the question but she had to score otherwise she would lose her ‘smart kid’ tag in the classroom. Her father tried to make her realise what was more damaging to her “reputation”: scoring less or being tagged as a liar in the eyes of her teacher. I am not sure whether she realised this. But he made it sure that she understood the topic over the next few days, while we never once commented on her telling a lie. Instead, we kept saying that she could always share whatever she wanted with us. Also, we told her it was alright if she didn’t understand any problem, what was more important was not losing calm, challenging yourself and trying to find solutions to such problems.
Maybe this was the time when I realised why the rhyme on “telling a lie” was so popular. At some or the other point of time in the process of growing up, every child will resort to telling a lie. The reasons for doing so will be more or less same: trying to satisfy yourself, defending your ego/reputation or just the fact that one is not able to react as expected by parents, society or your loved ones. The reactions of parents will vary based on the child’s age, kind of lie and the damage it caused. When Johnny smiles at eating sugar and lying about it, we all too smile with him, maybe cuddle him and forget about it. But when a grown-up SANJU lies about his drug addiction and getting guns from terrorists, it’s not a very palatable lie for any of us including his own celebrity parents.
Why so? Why can’t our reactions to lies be the same from day one? Also, more important and fruitful would be to address the reasons that make a child fearful, anxious or insecure and take refuge in telling a lie. Many times, the child might just be playing a prank mischievously to make the parents laugh or annoyed. Then maybe in adolescents, they may be lying to begin with checking what the parents’ reaction is going to be if the truth was found? So how do we react in such cases? How do we get to know whether its genuine lie or just to check our reaction?
I think in both the cases the trick is to be you. Your reaction, especially your values as a parent need to be the same in public or personal affairs. When the children see the transparency of your affairs maybe they will feel confident in not resorting to telling a lie, but ask for your advice or help. And, if they are not going to ask for your advice, they may become independent enough one fine day to look for the solutions for a problem in their life. And I think as apparent wouldn’t that be the best thing happening?