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Answers to the "whys" for the non-religious - lying, stealing, and the like

(41 Posts)
mezzer Thu 28-Aug-08 13:31:06

My dd (2y7mo) is full fledged in the "why stage". Most of the time, I try to give her a real, genuine answer and do my best to avoid "just because". But, here's the problem. Last night, we were chatting about how it's important not to lie and she asked, as usual, "why?" So, what is the answer if you aren't religious? Why shouldn't you lie, steal, etc? When growing up, I learned that you don't lie, etc because it's a sin. But, what's the toddler-friendly answer if I'm not going with that line of child-rearing? Any thoughts? Anyone else want help with other "whys" that are hard to answer?

Iklboo Thu 28-Aug-08 13:34:02

Just say because it's naughty and not nice

fluffyanimal Thu 28-Aug-08 13:37:29

For the Why shouldn't you lie, tell the story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf - ie. moral is that nobody will believe you when you need to tell them something important. That's just one reason, I'm sure others will think of more.

As for Why shouldn't you steal, say that it is upsetting when someone takes something that isn't yours. Pretend to take away her favourite toy and not give it back.

Afterthought - these may be a bit beyond a 2 year old, but worth keeping in store for later at least.

Othersideofthechannel Thu 28-Aug-08 13:39:46

Because it hurts other people. That's why. Whether you believe in a god or several gods has got nothing to do with it.

tribpot Thu 28-Aug-08 13:40:50

I would use the 'do as you would be done by' argument, like "you wouldn't like it if I lied to you and said 'yes you can go to the park' and then said 'oh no I was lying you can't'"

She's probably too young to understand yet, but that'd be the tack I'd take. Equally stealing - it's about having respect for other people.

nickytwotimes Thu 28-Aug-08 13:40:56

It's the same whether you are religious or not. We should try to be as nice to each other as possible.

Gobbledigook Thu 28-Aug-08 13:42:11

I don't think it's anything to do with religion - giving a real, logical, understandable reason why is better than just saying 'it's a sin' surely?

It's not rocket science to know why we don't do these things!

mezzer Thu 28-Aug-08 13:43:37

thanks for your replies... Boy Who Cried Wolf is a good idea. Hadn't thought of that.

As for saying "because it's not nice" - she just replies with "why?" ... So, why isn't it nice? Why is it naughty? Stealing is a bit easier to explain in toddler terms but lying is a hard one. The Boy Who Cried Wolf should help.

Shitehawk Thu 28-Aug-08 13:47:33

For now I'd probably say that it's important to be nice to other people and try not to hurt them, and lying to or stealing others hurts them.

When she's a little older, The Boy Who Cried Wolf is a good story to tell her, to demonstrate that those who tell lies are not trusted. But that's for a bit further down the line, I think.

mezzer Thu 28-Aug-08 13:48:51

Wow, lots of replies in while I was writing! Thanks.

Otherside - does lying really hurt other people though? In a way that a two-year old can understand?
nicky - yes, I agree. but, WHY is lying not nice?

I know I am being difficult but I have a two year old who always responds to any of my answers with another why... and then I end up in a weird existential crisis about the why... She only stops when I give her a full-blown, logical explanation. Then she seems to "get it" and stop with the "whys"

Shitehawk Thu 28-Aug-08 13:52:56

Lying isn't nice because it disappoints and upsets people.

You could tell someone something which makes them happy and excited, but when they find out it's a lie it makes them feel sad and upset. You could tell someone something which makes them feel scared or unhappy, but when they find out it's a lie it makes them feel sad and angry that you would want to make them feel scared and unhappy. We don't want to make people feel sad, scared or angry because we like to be nice to people, so we don't tell lies.

Shitehawk Thu 28-Aug-08 13:54:34

You could also tell her that mummies and daddies need to know that their children are telling the truth because lying about someone else can get them into trouble, and that isn't fair.

mezzer Thu 28-Aug-08 13:56:52

Thanks shitehawk (I love your name by the way!). I'll try that next time. I think that is the type of answer that she is looking for. Short answers are never enough.

I think my brain just freezes up sometimes with all the why why why.

Acinonyx Thu 28-Aug-08 15:27:05

The whys keep coming no matter how many answers you give - you'll have to accept that or you'll give yourself a hernia!

mezzer Fri 29-Aug-08 18:14:57

You're right, Acinonyx. It usually goes on and on with me trying my best to translate things into toddler-terms (why am I sweating? lesson in evapotranspiration anyone?) but often times eventually I just don't know the answer and cave in with "I don't know."

So, really, why does the bedsheet fall off if you wriggle too much? I suppose I could go into a physics lesson on momentum and friction...

Acinonyx Fri 29-Aug-08 19:51:00

Ah - are you a fellow scientist by any chance? I often feel compelled to try and explain as much as possible in real terms - I think it comes with the territory. It has led to many drawings of the digestive system (complete with poop) in chalk on the patio - not so fantastic for lunch visitors....

lou031205 Fri 29-Aug-08 20:02:01

Lying to people means that they can never really know if what you are saying is the truth.

Stealing from people means that you can't be sure that your things will be there when you get back.

I am a Christian, and will teach my children about Jesus & God, but actually, a lot of this stuff is society stuff.

pointydog Fri 29-Aug-08 20:14:37

I am surprised that someone should find this a hard question to answer.

nooka Fri 29-Aug-08 20:26:22

I'm not a scientist (well not post A levels anyway) but have a very inquiring ds. After a while he just gets my thoughts untranslated for age appropriateness. When I get to the edge of my understanding I refer him to others who know more than me, and now he is older to the internet. dd is less analytical, but I do remember the time when they started to say in a pitying way "you don't know about x, y or z"... blush

Blandmum Fri 29-Aug-08 20:31:08

This is a simple one, 'Because you wouldn't like it, if someone did it to you'

Mrs Do-as-you-would-be-done-to.

Not rocket science

SqueakyPop Fri 29-Aug-08 20:34:09

I am religious, and the major reason behind Sermon on the Mount commandments is because, otherwise, people get hurt.

mezzer Fri 29-Aug-08 21:58:42

Pointydog, I don't find it a hard question to answer, per se - it's not nice, people won't trust you, etc etc but not in a way that my dd will accept and not ask Why? again to each of those answers. I'm not saying that I don't know why you shouldn't lie. Just that all of my answers are never enough to satisfy her.

And, yes, Acinoyx, I am a scientist... And, I really did go into a discussion of evapotranspiration with her. And, why it gets dark, complete with a rotating ball, etc... Most of the time, those sorts of answers satisfy her but there are no concrete scientific explanations for why she shouldn't lie.

pointydog Fri 29-Aug-08 22:16:47

you hurt other people's feelings. They feel sad.

Acinonyx Fri 29-Aug-08 22:42:29

Well, is lying always wrong? I remember the totally Tremendous Deal that was made of this when i was growing up - too much in fact. Because I think many people are at some points economical with the truth for various reasons. Is there such a thing as a white lie? Are there really any hard and fast simple comandments that don't have a number of footnotes and exclusions?

Getting back to the natural world. I think even if dd doesn't entirely understand the explanation - she is satisfied by the sense that there IS an explanation that makes some sort of partly recognised sense.

But with ethics - there is no sense of that sort. You can talk about why 'people' think x and y are wrong and why you think they are (or aren't) and that's about it. It's not that simple at all really. I'm always using that phrase about rocket science - but rocket science really is pretty simple.

Overmydeadbody Fri 29-Aug-08 22:50:22

What's it got to do with religion?

Surely it's not a hard question to answer no matter what your beliefs are?hmm

Lying is not always wrong though. Sometimes the truth can hurt other people more than a little white lie would.

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