One of my favorite parts of my day is climbing into my daughter’s bed to end our day with a chance to read a book together and an opportunity to talk. Being almost 10, I know my days of snuggling with a great book and reading it aloud together will end sooner than I hope and with it, the wonderful conversations that we have. Bedtime tends to be a time of reflection for my daughter and the most common time when she wants to ask questions or share something important about her day.
In the past our bedtime conversations have led to her sharing that her then-preschool age brother was being bullied by classmates and now they’re more about successes in school, trouble with friends, boredom in math class, her new blog, and even sex. Bedtime is a time when she’s vulnerable, honest, and looks to me for guidance. I’ve never been one to sugar coat but there’s a line between being honest in an age appropriate way and being hyper honest.
If I ever had any doubts about the way my husband and I parent with honesty, or if we’re sharing too much or too little, Lisa Graham Keegan set me straight when I visited The Century Council during the #TalkEarly initiative kick off. Lisa is a parent of grown children, a former educator, powerhouse of a political consultant who advocates for education reform, and a Century Council Advisory Board member whose message of honest parenting resonated with me because of her realistic approach to parenting.
I’ve always preferred to provide my kids with knowledge and accurate information rather than learning misinformation from their peers. But Lisa says that in being honest and trying to help kids be their best selves, some parents go overboard.
“Parents go wrong with “Hyper Honesty” – it’s not necessary,” she said during our meeting. “This is not a tell-all about you and your underlying guilt…Don’t tell them everything.”
Instead, Lisa suggests that we “lead with information, not an agenda” to provide our kids with helpful answers that they can use. She urged us to make the conversations about them even when they’re asking the toughest questions.
“Be brutally honest, be clear with your kids that they have a path,” she recommends. “Remind them about who they are.” When we do this, we convey a message that speaks to their own honesty, leadership capabilities, and empowers them to make the right choices about things like underage drinking, over the counter medicine abuse, digital citizenship and safety, sex, and the myriad of other things they will confront in their lifetimes.
“Life is interesting. Life is rich. The best way to navigate it is straight up honest,” Lisa stated. After all, “successful parenting is raising kids who can afford their own therapist.”