by Thu Hien
It's 8.30pm. Thirteen-year-old Pham Duc Anh keeps crying out and begging his father not to beat him any more. "Dad, I'm sorry. I promise I'll not tell any lies. I'll study well."
As he pleaded, the sound of the lashes hitting him and his father's scolding echoed inside and outside the house. As a neighbour, I felt helpless as he took another beating from his parents.
Anh told me he was too tired to go to classes, but he did not dare to tell his parents. They would start hitting him even before he finished explaining. "I skipped a tutorial class for nearly one month, but told my parents I went every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon," he said. "They did not realise the truth until today. My Dad forgot his keys and waited for me at my tutor's class."
Telling lies to parents seems to be a habit with many Vietnamese children. This was revealed in a survey on Ha Noi's secondary schools by the Institute of Psychology. About 82 per cent of students surveyed said they told lies to their parents.
Some people would call these children wicked, but I feel their words and activities reflect their upbringing. There is a well-known saying: "Parents are role models, children are copycats."
According to the survey, 53.3 per cent of surveyed students said that they told lies because they were afraid of being beaten or scolded by their parents. Only 4 per cent admitted that telling lies to their parents was wrong.
Anh said: "When I tell the truth about my mistakes, I am scolded by my Mum for an hour or more or I am beaten with a bamboo rod by my Dad. It is really painful and shameful. So I choose to tell lies to them because it is very difficult for them to check whether they are true or not. Once I chatted with my friends after class and came home late. I told my parents that it was due to traffic jams."
Anh said he felt scared and guilty the first time he told a lie to his parents, but these feelings disappeared after he was beaten.
Luong Minh Chi, a psychologist at Ha Noi's Children and Family Consultation Centre, said many parents did not trust their children and never listened to them. Instead, they used the threat of strict punishment to keep them in line. They assumed their children would be so scared of this that they would tread a narrow path.
However, as they say, to err is human, even more so for children. Many parents do not realise that often they are to blame for their children's actions. Children understand when their parents tell fibs in front of them.
Anh said: "My Mum told my Grandmother that she was sick and could not attend a party, but she was busy doing aerobics with her friend. My Dad often took me to ‘bia hoi' after picking me up from school, but he told Mum he had bought me ice-cream. Why adults can tell lies, but children can't. Telling lies often harms no one, but it really saves me."
Pham Duc Du, his dad, said: "Strict punishment stops my child from committing mistakes. We let him attend many classes in the hope he will become the best student in his class. Nevertheless, he dares to lie to us about this. I was shocked when I found out."
He said he and his wife sometimes told lies to solve a dilemma situations, but maintains they were just "white lies". "I did not realise that these were negatively affecting him."
Psychologist Chi said that at about the age of two, children started imitating adults' words and activities. He said parents and kindergarten teachers had the first and greatest influence in forming children's character. While parents and teachers told them not to lie, often they unintentionally committed the same mistakes in front of their children.
He said it was important for parents to listen to their children and explain to them what is wrong and why. They should be patient when making their children realise telling lies is bad.
Chi added that if they failed to do this, their children would find it natural to tell lies and commit more serious mistakes, such as cheating during tests or cheating or stealing from others.
Anh said he would prefer to have his nose lengthened like Pinocchio if he told lies to his parents rather than being beaten or scolded.
American author Robert Fulghum writes: "Don't worry that children never listen to you. Worry that they are always watching you." So parents, please make sure what your child learns from you is the truth, not lies and deceit. — VNS