There are so many quotes or phrases out there about transparency:
“I’ve come to learn there is a virtuous cycle to transparency and a very vicious cycle of obfuscation” – Jeff Weiner
“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity” – Dalai Lama
“Transparency is not the same as looking straight through a building; it’s not just a physical idea, it’s also an intellectual one.” –Helmut Jahn
Most of us look at transparency as being a virtue, something important, something core. However, I’m willing to bet that most of us lie to our kids, or at least lie to them when they’re young. Don’t think so?
Child: “Daddy, why can’t we go to the toy store?”
Parent: “Because they’re closed.”
Child: “But there are people in the store! I see them!”
Parent: “They’re working there to close it now.”
I could list dozens of examples, but I won’t, because we know we’ve all done it. In this day and age, I feel it’s a lot easier to “make something up” rather than to explain the truth. It’s not just about places they want to go, but foods we want them to eat, choices we want them to make, etc. One thing that makes me feel is even worse is using the phrase, “because I’m your parent and I said so.”
Not being transparent is the same as either not being open/honest and hiding/keeping secrets and in essence, it all boils down to cooperation. Cooperation is key for any parent-child relationship and a huge component of cooperation is transparency. Being honest with your kids, not keeping secrets, and being honest with yourself, builds that cooperation. Not only are you building cooperation you’re building trust, love, and understanding.
So, about a year ago, I started to try and be as accurate and example setting as I could be with my kids. Here’s an example from June 7th, while I was driving the twins to daycare for the day (they’re a boy and girl, 3.5 years old. A bit of back story real quick, we went to a toy store the previous week and bought things for the pool.)
Daughter: “Daddy, I want to go to the toy store today. Can we go after school?”
Me: “Not today sweetie.”
Me: “We have a lot to do today; we have to finish putting things away downstairs, get clothes ready, and prepare for people visiting this weekend. Let’s go another day.”
Son: “Why can’t we go today?”
Me: “Let me ask you this, why do you want to go?”
Daughter: “We need to get things for the pool and I want a doll.”
Son: “I want a truck and something else too.”
Me: “Don’t we already have things for the pool? We didn’t use them yet. We also have lots of other toys at home, how about instead of going to the toy store, we find some toys we haven’t played with in a while and do something with them.”
They were hesitant, but in the end, we didn’t go to the toy store. Later that night, we played with “road floor mat” and cars that we haven’t played with in a while.
I justified, redirected, asked questions, found out what their motive was for want to go, and came up with an alternative. If that alternative didn’t work, I’d find another. The point here is I didn’t shut them down or lie to them. I was transparent with them- we had deadlines to keep for a gathering this weekend, we have pool things, we have other toys, some of those toys are neglected, do we really need more when we have what we have? I didn’t lie to them, I was transparent. That covers the being open with your kids, but what about hiding/keeping secrets?
I don’t think that we’re hiding much from our kids, however when serious things come about, we tend to stray from truth in form of secrets, such as death, crisis, hardships, and the like. That comes from our innate want to protect them and keep them innocent. The first example I can think of is when a pet dies. Goldfish, guinea pig, dog, makes no difference, there was a family attachment and now that’s gone. What do you do? How do you talk to your kids about it?
Although how these opportunities arise are not in the best light, these nevertheless are great opportunities to teach, explain, bond, and share with your kids. Be honest with them, be transparent with them, tell them what they need to know and help them grow.
Again, these are hard things to do and say. However, think about this. You’re leading by example. You’re showing how important being transparent is by being transparent with your kids. You’re fostering a relationship and building cooperation.
I know some of you may think that not being transparent all the time is better than 100% transparency, but in the end, what matters most? Transparency in who you are and what you are leads to success.
Let me leave you with this. When you think of a transparent object, what do you think of? A glass? A crystal? Plastic? Well, light will arrive at that object, pass through it, and continue on its journey through. I don’t see transparency with our kids like that. I see it as a prism. What happens when white light passes through a prism? It morphs into something beautiful. It separates into the full spectrum. Each color can be seen as it is separated. Think of your kids like that.
You be transparent with your children, and they’ll take that light you shine onto them and create something magical with it.
About the Author
Nick (Fat Dad Slim Dad) lives in NJ with his wife and 3.5-year-old twins. Since becoming a father, he has become very active in the child development community, including attending seminars, taken courses, and mentoring other dads focusing on cooperative/empowering strategies for their kids. In an effort to expand his knowledge to anyone who is interested in learning more empowering parenting strategies, he created an online persona called Fat Dad Slim Dad. Fat Dad Slim Dad is a social persona, inviting others who are interested in empowering parenting strategies to come and learn, try something new, and interact with other parents. Videos review techniques for parents, some focusing on dissecting a child’s behavior, some focusing on parents themselves, but all are applicable for parents of any age.
Blending his own style of humor with real-world examples of strategies in action using his kids, his main goal is to spread the love to all parents out there while continuing to learn and at the end of the day, have all of us be the best parents we can be.
If you’re interested in learning more about Fat Dad Slim Dad, the links are here:
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