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The Fourth precept

BunksBunks Australia Veteran

As you all know, the fourth precept tells us not to lie.

Recently I have been tested with this in a couple of interactions with my 6 year old daughter. She has trouble understanding the difference between me joking with her and being serious (possibly a manifestation of her ASD or simply her age).

Anyway, last night she made a fake spider and sat it on the coffee table to scare me. I knew about it (6 year olds aren't great at hiding things!) but feigned surprise and fear! She was delighted but inevitably I get the "Were you being serious daddy or did you really know it was fake?"

Here is where I have a choice. Be honest and know there will be tears or lie and make her happy?

I chose the former and she cried. I feel bad but I don't want to lie to her.

Any thoughts?

Comments

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    edited August 2016

    It's always a tough question! It really just depends on the situation and the people and their histories and all that goes into it. You'd be surprised what kids remember you fibbed about and bring up later on, they sometimes get mad about it! I always try to be honest, but if I know it'll hurt their feelings, I try to soften that as much as I can. I might say "well, I suspected it might not be real, but what if we make one together that looks even more real and scare your mom with it!?" or something like that.

    With young kids, their learning how to joke and play pranks is just part of their socializing. So I don't think it's always really lying to play along with them and let them believe something that maybe makes them feel good and causes no harm. But it can be really hard to know what that is!

    ASD kids, as I'm sure you know, are very literal. That stays with them forever, but they do get better at observing others and knowing when and how to be more sarcastic. But it doesn't come terribly naturally to them. So with that, I'd also consider whether she is asking (if you are able to tell) out of a connection, out of emotion, out of a desire to please you, or something like that. OR if she is asking in order to learn and understand something. Because they don't learn social interaction the same way we do, lying to them or tricking them can have a bad outcome if they then take it to their friends and they are much crueler in their critique. For example if you convinced her the spider was real, and she tried to play the joke on a friend, and a friend then said "that's so stupid, your spider is obviously fake." that would be a lot harder on her than having her dad gently explain that it was a good prank but maybe the spider could use some work.

    BunksKundoSteve_B
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    I imagine a lot depends on the individual child but the thought that comes to me is somehow being honest while acknowledging her feelings and efforts. Something like, "I saw the spider but I knew you were trying to get me so I acted scared to make you happy". Or a half truth, "I knew it was fake but you did it so good it did kind of scare me."

    I honestly don't know if that's right or not but those are my thoughts at any rate.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited August 2016

    Tsk, tsk. It is a real spider. I have never seen such a real arachnid, except in the garden ... I really am a lobster incidentaly - honestly!!! ... :3

    The truth of a child should be considered pure. Therefore it is on one level real. B)

    In a similar way it is not permissable for a sangha member to teach beyond peoples capacity to hear. The Buddha restrained and revealed according to the situation.

    As an example, it is doubtful (but possible) that the Buddha transmitted Zen by flower lifting. However the story is not historical, it is the transmission of a higher truth ...

    A joke, jakata tale, sutra, sutta, suitor, lama, parent are transmitting something with greater integrity than 'This IS a spider'. And that may be unfolding, courtship, tradition transmission, multi level truth.

    Don't make your children cry by being a jackass 'Daddy Buddhist' :3 - so to speak - the truth in my opinion ... o:)

    ... and now onto other stories ...

  • namarupanamarupa Veteran
    edited August 2016

    If you prefer, you can also weigh the actions and get an idea of the karmic weight that it carries. It just requires a little bit of thought. If it bothers you to think you have done something that affected someone, how would a similar action bear its weight on you? If you are sensitive to such actions then naturally you wouldn't be the kind of person that would cause it too often. Either way it's not something to be too concerned about since you are already aware of it.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    It's funny that you should bring this up @Bunks as I was thinking of starting a thread on honesty...Anyhow ......I'm not sure if this will help in anyway....

    I like what Thich Nhat Hanh has to say.....

    “Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and compassionate listening in order to relieve suffering and to promote reconciliation and peace in myself and among other people, ethnic and religious groups, and nations. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to speaking truthfully using words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope. When anger is manifesting in me, I am determined not to speak. I will practice mindful breathing and walking in order to recognize and to look deeply into my anger. I know that the roots of anger can be found in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of the suffering in myself and in the other person. I will speak and listen in a way that can help myself and the other person to transform suffering and see the way out of difficult situations. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to utter words that can cause division or discord. I will practice Right Diligence to nourish my capacity for understanding, love, joy, and inclusiveness, and gradually transform anger, violence, and fear that lie deep in my consciousness.”

    Um I wonder how would human relationships be if we were to be 'totally' honest with each other all the time?

    Cinorjer
  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    Thanks guys. I did try and soften it when I spoke to her but she was still a bit upset.

  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    Thanks for the Thubten Chodron reference @karasti.
    It has helped me feel better about it. The lie did come from a good place I think.

    Shoshinlobsterkarasti
  • @Bunks said:
    The lie did come from a good place I think.

    Of course. <3
    Advising anyone on their kids upbringing is rarely a good plan. However IMO kids needs are more important than our needs to obey precepts nazi style ... O.o

    You did what you thought was right. Full parenting credits. Bravo. <3

    Keromeperson
  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran
    edited August 2016

    @lobster said:

    Advising anyone on their kids upbringing is rarely a good plan.

    Yes!! A quick way to lose friends.....

  • possibilitiespossibilities PNW, WA State Veteran

    Honesty. It's my thing :-) .

    I am not even a parent, but honesty should be dished out to every age group. However, you can be smart and circumvent causing pain by simply side stepping the issue, e.g. exclaiming how alarmingly real and scary the spider looked - and then saying it needs to be taken outside carefully.... and attaching a little lesson in compassion. Or some such thing.
    It's a game, so play along. :-)

    Steve_B
  • @Bunks said:
    Thanks guys. I did try and soften it when I spoke to her but she was still a bit upset.

    It's a tricky one, but on balance I think it's best to be honest, not least because kids are actually pretty good at working out when people are not being straight with them.

  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    @possibilities said:
    Honesty. It's my thing :-) .

    I am not even a parent, but honesty should be dished out to every age group. However, you can be smart and circumvent causing pain by simply side stepping the issue, e.g. exclaiming how alarmingly real and scary the spider looked - and then saying it needs to be taken outside carefully.... and attaching a little lesson in compassion. Or some such thing.
    It's a game, so play along. :-)

    Yes, I agree but that wasn't my point. The question was how do I answer her when she asks if I am pretending or not?

  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    I would lovingly joke with her about 'if she didn't suspect you were faking it in the first place,' she wouldn't have asked the question.

  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited August 2016

    I had to think about this one a good bit, OP. Are you in the Mahayana tradition, or Theravada? Or have you not decided?

    Here's the conclusion I came to.
    Little kids can take things very literally, and sometimes personally, and sometimes in ways we can't anticipate or even understand. So, with that aspect of child psychology in mind, I might find a way to fudge around the response, or in some way avoid telling the cold, hard truth. This could be considered an act of compassion for a small child.

    In Mahayana tradition, there's a "greater good" principle about observing the precepts. One is allowed to break a precept if a greater good is being served. The classic example, which is very black-and-white compared to many day-to-day situations we encounter, is: if the Gestapo is banging on your door asking if you're harboring any Jews, would tell them about the Jews in your basement, or would you lie? Well, saving lives is much more important than clinging to truth-telling, so of course you would lie. There's a tale about the Buddha riding a ferry. He discerns that the pilot is planning to kill everyone on board. He decides to kill the pilot in order to save the passengers. He accepts the negative karmic seeds he will accrue for this act.

    Theravada doesn't have that flexibility, though, according to the practitioners on the Theravada website/forum. Apparently the sutras with those teachings and examples aren't part of the Pali Canon, not sure. In any case, you can reflect on it, and decide how to handle future situations.

    Bunks
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Ah. At last. I was wondering when Godwin's Law would raise its head....

    Bunks
  • ZeroZero Veteran

    @Bunks said:
    The question was how do I answer her when she asks if I am pretending or not?

    I chuckle at people's unfunny jokes and they're adults - there's no harm in playing along with kids in a game.

    VastmindBunks
  • @Zero said:> I chuckle at people's unfunny jokes and they're adults -

    I just groan these days. :p

    Zero
  • @Zero said:

    I chuckle at people's unfunny jokes and they're adults - there's no harm in playing along with kids in a game.

    LOL
    ... wait, you knowingly break precepts? [lobster faints] I am in the company of heretics? tsk, tsk - must remain pure and absolute ... or not ... :bleep_bloop:

  • Steve_BSteve_B Far southwest corner of Indiana, USA Veteran

    @possibilities said:
    Honesty. It's my thing :-) .

    I am not even a parent, but honesty should be dished out to every age group. However, you can be smart and circumvent causing pain by simply side stepping the issue, e.g. exclaiming how alarmingly real and scary the spider looked - and then saying it needs to be taken outside carefully.... and attaching a little lesson in compassion. Or some such thing.
    It's a game, so play along. :-)

    I love this!
    Be startled. Be fearful. Then be compassionate. Take the spider outside. Wish it luck.
    At some point it will be evident that you know the spider is a prop. But that's OK: she knew it was a prop when she made it. You can change your role from audience member to fellow cast member, and thereby replace conflict with collaboration. And celebrating the spider is better than the implied/inferred criticism of strict honesty.

    silverVastmind
  • ZeroZero Veteran

    @lobster said:
    ... wait, you knowingly break precepts?

    In a fuzzy world, where absolutes are membership, then there are degrees of membership Will Robinson.

    lobster
  • possibilitiespossibilities PNW, WA State Veteran

    @Bunks said:

    @possibilities said:
    Honesty. It's my thing :-) .

    I am not even a parent, but honesty should be dished out to every age group. However, you can be smart and circumvent causing pain by simply side stepping the issue, e.g. exclaiming how alarmingly real and scary the spider looked - and then saying it needs to be taken outside carefully.... and attaching a little lesson in compassion. Or some such thing.
    It's a game, so play along. :-)

    Yes, I agree but that wasn't my point. The question was how do I answer her when she asks if I am pretending or not?

    A GAME is acting, pretending, role playing...... << lies?

    You are IMO robbing yourself of a lot of phantasies and creativity, (the most fun part of being with kids) by scutinizing what is innocent fun. Stories are not real "truth" either, fables aren't, movies aren't..... Loosen up, give the kid a break. That's what I'd want from my Dad - or do you want eye-rolls later in life when she remembers how you stuck to literal truth..... :-)
    IOW, you can let her know you knew it was a game, a test and you acted accordingly.

    lobsterVastmind
  • And what is the current position on Santa Claus? :p

    Shoshin
  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    @SpinyNorman said:
    And what is the current position on Santa Claus? :p

    We have never mentioned him and she hasn't asked :)

    lobsterVastmindKundo
  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    Actually, that is not entirely true> @possibilities said:

    @Bunks said:

    @possibilities said:
    Honesty. It's my thing :-) .

    I am not even a parent, but honesty should be dished out to every age group. However, you can be smart and circumvent causing pain by simply side stepping the issue, e.g. exclaiming how alarmingly real and scary the spider looked - and then saying it needs to be taken outside carefully.... and attaching a little lesson in compassion. Or some such thing.
    It's a game, so play along. :-)

    Yes, I agree but that wasn't my point. The question was how do I answer her when she asks if I am pretending or not?

    A GAME is acting, pretending, role playing...... << lies?

    You are IMO robbing yourself of a lot of phantasies and creativity, (the most fun part of being with kids) by scutinizing what is innocent fun. Stories are not real "truth" either, fables aren't, movies aren't..... Loosen up, give the kid a break. That's what I'd want from my Dad - or do you want eye-rolls later in life when she remembers how you stuck to literal truth..... :-)
    IOW, you can let her know you knew it was a game, a test and you acted accordingly.

    I did play along with her and we had a fun time.

    Then five mins later she asked me if I was just pretending or if I really believed the spider.was real. I chose to be honest with her.

    If that causes eye rolling later from her then so be it. I don't mind. :)

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    It is just really hard to know how the little things will impact kids later, and what things they will remember and you will have to deal with much later. But there is no way to know that no matter which way you decide. My oldest is ASD and he's almost 20 now and still brings up things that I said or fibbed about, or decisions I made on his behalf that he didn't like. I made them only knowing what I did then, but it still upsets him because he's very direct, honest, and literal. They are very important qualities in him and people who choose not to have those qualities, he has a problem with.

    My middle son however is a very creative kid, and while my oldest might appreciate the same input, it would crush my middle son.

    The one thing I have learned as a parent is, kids have their own values and needs that might be different from ours. It is our job as the adult to learn theirs, help them understand them and use them as strengths and how to meet their needs, without crushing their spirits. It is NOT up to us to determine what is most important to us WILL be most important to them, dammit, and they will fall in line behind what we believe because we are the parent. Having 3 kids who are very, very different, I have to change how I parent each of them depending on their unique needs. I choose to do that rather than to expect them to change themselves to fit my needs, which, as an adult, I am more than capable of meeting myself.

    In the example the OP gave, as a child who had a hard time putting myself out there to do jokes and pranks and such, an overly honest reaction would have been crushing to me. I can say that at 40 because there are things similar my parents said and did, and they still bring up hurt today that I deal with in my meditation. My oldest would be mad if I lied about the spider. He'd want honest input and help to do it better next time. My middle child would cease to bother showing me such pranks again because he would assume I knew them to be not-real. Instead of sharing his jokes and having a nice moment together, he just wouldn't do it at all any more because having an audience is really important to him but the validity of the moment depends on belief. He has been big into magic tricks and here is a fine balance between appropriate critique. My youngest is 8 and his reaction would be to cry in disappointment over his failure to make a spider that was real enough to fool me. He would consider the entire experience to be sad because the joy of the moment was not maintained. He lives for joy and making people smile. So, it would very much depend on me knowing the kid and going with what was going to work for him rather than being overly attached to my own firmly held ideas of what is "right" to do.

    lobsterBunkspossibilities
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