When Should We Stop Lying To Our Children?

This coming Thursday at my son’s school they will be having their first ever Father’s Day stall selling gifts for the students to purchase for their dads. I’d like to say that this is because I made it happen when I joined the Parents and Citizens Associations (P&C) earlier this year, but the idea was actually introduced at the last meeting of the previous year when I didn’t have a child in school. But when they asked for a show of hands, I voted for it.

Along with the Father’s Day stall there is also an annual Father’s Day breakfast which is being held before school and before the dads who work have to whisk off to their places of employment. My wife has filled in the form and sent it off to say that I will be attending the breakfast. Awesome. I love getting involved with the things that the kids do.

Last Thursday the kids were reminded in class that the breakfast and stall would be on next Thursday (although my kid got it wrong and kept saying Tuesday). Regardless of his error, I was excited to see him so excited until a little incident played out in the car that caught me by surprise.

“Dad, don’t forget that next Tuesday is the Father’s Day breakfast. You can come to my school and have breakfast there with me…”

This was of course the third time that he told me this bit of news since I picked him up from school, but this time he had something to add. Turning to his little brother sitting next to him in the back seat of my car he said;

“Now it’s only for Daddy and me but that’s okay because Mummy is taking you to a party…”

You should have heard the high-pitched, saccharine-sweet, andĀ condescending voice he put on. He really sold the idea of the party being a real thing. But it’s not.

“Mate, you can’t say that to him. Mummy isn’t taking him to a party. You can’t lie to him like that…”

And then came the kicker reply;

“Then why is it okay for you and Mummy to do it? How come you guys can lie to us?”

Ummm….

He got me. He got us. We do tell lies to our children and it was only a matter of time before we’d be found out. Or maybe he’s know for a while and it is just now that he’s calling us out on it.

I’ve always known there’d be a time when he’d come to us and tell us that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy are all make believe, and I am prepared for when that happens.

When he was 4-years-old he went around saying “Oh My God” all the time which he picked up from somewhere so I sat down with him and told him that some people might see that as blasphemy or a naughty thing to say because some people might take offence to saying God’s name in that context. I might be an Atheist, but I’m mindful of people’s feelings. Well, most of the time.

Of course then I had to explain who God is (as he asked me to) and was surprised by his comment;

“You’re just joking Dad. There’s no big man who lives in the sky….”

I swear I didn’t teach him that. He’s just a smart kid. He listens to what goes on and he tries to use the tricks that we use to manipulate our him and his little brother to manipulate us in return. He uses them on his brother, he uses them on my wife and he uses them on me.

He knows that many of the threats to throw his expensive collection of Lego in the bin are empty threats. And when you think about it, empty threats are basically lies. You say you are going to do something and then you don’t so that’s lying. Don’t get me wrong, my wife and I don’t let him walk all over us and we follow through with a lot of the punishments we threaten him with, but we are yet to throw out “all that Lego that’s sitting on the floor and not picked up in 10, 9, 8….”

So now there has to be a different tact. Now we need to make sure that what we say isn’t a lie just to throw him off. Sure we can still use the “Santa Claus is keeping that list” as the Christmas season settles in, and also the Easter Bunny earlier on in the year until he eventually works out they’re not real, but we can’t use the whole God and/or Jesus is watching so you better be good because that doesn’t sit right with me. That’s not going to be part of my arsenal.

It’s one thing to threaten your kid with throwing out their toys in order to get them to clean their room even if you don’t have the intention to do so, but I draw the line at condemning them to a life where that live in fear of an afterlife of pain and suffering in Hell; so the idea of using the religious lies, punishment by God, just seems like child abuse to me. But both ideas are forms of lying and once found out, your child has every right to start throwing around lies themselves because you have taught them this is okay.

Now some people will tell you that there’s a difference between outright lying to your children and telling them a few white lies. White lies, for those not in the know are a harmless or trivial lie, especially one told to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.

From telling your kid that the ice cream man only plays Greensleeves when he’s run out of ice cream or that the shops are closed today, to saying things like “we are almost there” when you’re really a few hours from your destination or “this won’t hurt” when taking them to get their shots or removing a splinter, these untruths will catch up to you one day.

All parents use the white lie technique to stop their children from asking to do something or to get something. But this is breeding liars of the future. It is creating children who will be manipulative by lying themselves. We are basically raising each child to be future politicians.

So what should we do? I don’t know. I’m going to do my best to not use this technique. But since thinking about writing this post four days ago I have had a weekend in between where I have heard myself use lies to get the kids to do things. I felt dirty for doing it. But it worked. It stopped them dead in their tracks. Well most of the time.

And because these little lies work so well on weak minds like our children have, I can really see why the threat of eternal damnation still works on adults.

Do you tell lies to your kids? What’s the best lie that you tell that always stops the kids from hassling you?

Header Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5 thoughts on “When Should We Stop Lying To Our Children?

  1. We all have different parenting techniques and I would think lying to our children is one of them. Sometimes its in their best interest to not know the truth. My son is only 2 years old, but I already find myself telling him “white lies” as they are called. Sometimes you just have to go with what works! Great post!

  2. I go to great lengths not to lie to my kids. Of course I’m not perfect, but I want my girls to know that I tell them the truth. I do simplify answers; at times I tell them that they are not yet grown up enough to hear the answer to a question; Santa is still real to my 5 year old; I readily give answers that aren’t actual answers; and I’m not going to judge parents who use white lies. But I don’t, to the best of my ability, straight-up lie to my girls, not even white lies. They are people. They deserve the truth.

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