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Thomas Aquinas and my Lying Toddler

I’d heard her stretch the truth before, but never to this degree. All of a sudden, it felt like every interaction with my sweet, smart, helpful little girl was becoming riddled with lies, and as her mama I was not handling it well.

Where was this coming from?!

Who had modeled this behavior for her??

I looked to place blame. I was insulted and impatient. The underlying fear, “She’s turning into a bad kid,” (hello dramatic brain) was turning ME into a bad mom, — or at least a less-than-ideal one — and I couldn’t seem to find my way out.

Fast forward to that week’s lesson in Metanoia’s Catholic Coaching Foundations program. I sat beside my husband and listened to Matt and Erin’s description of St Thomas Aquinas’ Ontological Man. As they walked us through his mapping of the human mind, I scribbled furiously in my notebook trying to keep up.

Passive intellect? Okay.

Common sense power? Got it.

Memory and imagination? I’m tracking.

Cogitative power? …Come again?

I soon learned that the cogitative power is the power of association in the material part of the mind. It’s used to compare, contrast, and make basic judgments like “good” “bad” or “useful” and is especially active in young children… children below the age of reason. As I continued to listen my mind quickly went to my four-year-old, and I had to pause the lesson.

She’s simply made an association!

She’s not trying to offend me!

She’s got no malice in her heart!

She just thinks lying is useful!

“If I lie to cover up what I did, maybe I can avoid the consequence.”

“If I lie to tell Mama what she wants to hear, maybe I’ll make her happy.”

It made total sense!

“In that case…” I thought, “If it’s true that she’s simply associated lying with usefulness, maybe I can stop reacting like a crazy person and simply take steps to lovingly peel back the old association and help her form a new one.”

Cue the relief.

So, that’s what I went on to do. From a place of peace and understanding, I approached each new instance of lying with the goal of forming a new association. We talked about how lying might seem good but emphasized why that’s not the case. We talked about the importance of trust in relationships, and about God’s instruction to tell the truth. And if none of that stuck, she quickly learned that lying meant an extended conversation on mama’s lap away from her coloring pages and play dough, which was so not worth it.

Lying = useful NO MORE!

Of course new behaviors have since cropped up, and will continue to along this parenthood journey, but this scenario with my toddler highlighted for me the immense beauty and power of mindset work and Catholicism combined. What a powerhouse duo!

When I joined Catholic Coaching Foundations, I had no clue whether I’d ever coach a client, but I DID know that this teaching, this work, and this community would equip me to serve my family better… and I’m so grateful that’s proven to be the case!