Google+ Authentic Parenting: Hey, Liar, Liar. Four Things To Consider Before You Keep On Lying to Your Child.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Hey, Liar, Liar. Four Things To Consider Before You Keep On Lying to Your Child.


Parents lie all the time for various reasons. In a recent Huffington Post piece Liar, Liar Devon Corneal  admits to fibbing and lying to her child. She says she lies all the time, about cupcakes, marshmallows, about the library being closed when she doesn't want to go and even that nobody died in the sinking of the Titanic. Should parents always tell the truth?

Well, let’s talk about some things to consider before lying to our children:

Missed Opportunities for Learning
Sometimes parents tell lies to protect their children’s feelings. Although I do not remember doing this deliberately, I do understand there may be a time when telling the truth becomes a difficult, emotionally charged situation. Yet, children do need to feel their feelings, even if it is disappointment, fear or being displeased.
Through these difficult moments, even when they discover that the dog shred their lovey which was forgotten by the sofa, or that Sparky the fish is floating because he is dead, yes, totally dead, not sleeping or going to play at the flush park on the other side of the toilet lid, that children learn to accept, regulate and understand their emotions.
All these moments, no matter how emotionally difficult are teachable moments, moments where children can learn about responsibility (remember to clean up that lovey), learn about the cycle of life, grief and loss (good bye sparky, yes 1500 people died in the titanic), learn empathy too (sorry, I am too tired to visit the library today, let’s think of something else we can do.) Should we lie to our children to avoid emotions and miss these teachable moments? Or should we instead brave the truth?

Modeling the Easy Way Out 
I totally understand, it may seem easier to say that the cupcakes are all gone or that the grocery store is out of marshmallows than to stick to our limits and deal with the potential disagreement. But, don’t we want our children to respect us and understand that there are limits in the household? Plus shouldn't children have their own opinions, a voice, grow up to believe in their own potential, their strength? Should we really take the easy route or look for ways to strengthen our relationships, use opportunities to give our children a chance to persist, even argue so they learn to be logical, reasonable and state their case? It doesn’t mean we must cave on our limits; on the contrary, we can empathize, fulfill their needs with imagination, alternatives and simply be kind and firm. If my kiddo wanted another cupcake, things would be more like this over here: “Oh, sounds like those cupcakes sure are delicious. I am saving this last one for myself so I can have one too. I know you wish you could have more. And another day, you can, but today, the answer is no!” The reply on a happy go lucky day would be “ok mom” and on a feistier day “FINE!” and on a less than stellar day “But I want it!" Maybe there would be some tears. I would tell the truth and then we would sort it out and move on.


Broken Trust 
Our children are supposed to trust us. From keeping them safe to helping them learn about how the world works, as parents we are their first role model, mentor and guide. Telling lies, creating a different reality for whatever reason can really break that trust that a child has in their parent. I wonder, if a child starts to notice that he is being routinely lied to if he would start to question and doubt just about anything the parent says, or all adults for that matter. Perhaps limits and house rules would start being ignored, or whatever mom and dad answer will always need to be carefully considered and weighed because they so often don’t tell the truth. Is it ok to lie until they catch us or better to avoid it all together? Is there a time when risking our child’s trust is worth it? What is the difference between lying to our child versus lying to our spouse?

Hypocrisy
No matter the age of a child, as parents we expect them to tell us the truth. We want to know if they ate the last piece of chocolate, oh wait that would have been me in this house...Anyways, we want to know if they took a toy away from another child or if they really copied the answer to homework from their schoolmate… We want to know the truth, the whole truth! Certainly we don’t want our children to tell US lies! Often parents will even shame and punish their children for lying but are so quick to tell a lie themselves. Is it ok to lie to our children but demand that they always tell the truth?

In an ideal world; I would say it’s not ok to lie to children. But, I get it, sometimes it’s really tough to face the truth. So I am not judging, because, parenting is so tough, and I probably have lied to my children at some point because EVERYONE lies. I try my very hardest to be honest and when I am unable to answer a question, because I don’t know the answer or feel uncomfortable with the topic or location, I kindly explain that another time is better suited for that discussion.

The world can be a scary and unjust place, just like Devon said. For me, that is all the more reason to make our home a safe, warm, welcoming and trustworthy place to hear the truth and practice dealing with all those emotions as they arise.

So, what do you think? Should parents aim to tell the truth? Is there a time when you think lying really is totally justified?

Peace & Be Well,
 

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18 comments:

  1. No lies to my child, ever. I just couldn't do it. It's so disrespectful to do that to any child. I used to get into trouble for telling the truth to my adolescent school students too, from adults who wanted me to be political. If you want honesty and trust from them, you have to model it- end of story.

    No, Santa is not real, and nor is the Easter Bunny. Lying is not cute. Stories are stories, reality is reality, lying is patronising. My son is 27 now and he tells me the truth- always has.

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  2. This is so totally going in my Sunday Surf. At which time I will also read it to my husband. He sometimes does those lies out of convenience that do make sense, but I just kind of roll my eyes. It can definitely be tougher to tell the truth, but you get through it.

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    1. Thank you for sharing in your Sunday surf!!

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  3. Totally agree with Aunt Annie. Though full disclosure: I did it once, and immediately felt stupid. I don't remember what I lied to him about, but it was in line with, "Oh, there aren't any!" And then I did an internal face-palm, because... well, there was no reason to lie but for my own desire to not have to bother with something.

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  4. OH my, how I am glad that another parent has vocalised the importance of honesty.
    Husband and I have been discussing incessantly how we are going to honestly inform our girl about the world without causing trauma. We both agreed that when questions are asked and those teachable moments arrive we would be as age appropriate as possible in telling the truth even if it means an awkward moment.
    We are of the strong belief that children 'know' anyway, so why bother with the smoke and mirrors.
    Thanks for the post, it's cemented some intentions that were already implementing.

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  5. Good article. I'm always a little surprised when I hear parents make up lies to tell their kids. And of course it happens the most with toddlers (from what I can tell). I guess it just never occurred to me that this was even an option because my mom has always talked to me truthfully. I'm glad it feels natural to me to tell my kids the truth. I just dislike it when friends or even strangers lie to my kids about little things like, "Oh no the candy is gone!" as they hide it under a shelf. And then want me to follow along. Ugh, it's awkward.

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  6. We do our best not to lie also. Our kids know that about Santa, the Easter bunny, the toothfairy etc. If we lie about those things and trick them into believing them, how will they trust us when we talk about God or anything else?

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  7. I am very straight forward with my daughter...she isn't quite 3 yet, but I think explaining everything helps with comprehension and problem solving skills... if she can't have something it is either a flat no or why she can't have it right then...I was raised to communicate with my parents because they didn't want me to hide things from them, and the only thing kept from me was grown up problems

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  8. Lying about then Library being closed or cupcakes being gone seems shocking! How sad to parent from that angle. We do Santa and the Easter Bunny as I feel those are wonderful childhood traditions but fibbing on a daily basis, or weekly or monthly? Never!!!

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  9. We never ever lie to our kids...ever. They have always known that Santa/easter bunny etc etc are all fiction, not real etc. I don't make up stories to get out of situations, I just don't. I do make things age appropriate, if things need to be discussed (ie, death, child abuse, terrorism etc) I grew up with my parents telling me the truth about these things, so we do the same. I also expect my kids to tell the truth in all matters, so we strive to do that too. Very good article, I'm glad to know I'm not alone in my views :)

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    1. thank you for sharing your thoughts! glad you liked the article!

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  10. I'm so glad that you addressed the Santa thing! Santa to me is just another lie! It is fun to "pretend in Santa" at our house. But I will not lie to them!

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  11. nope, no lies. i completely agree with all four points, especially about allowing children to feel their feelings & learn to cope. lying is all about manipulating situations or people for personal motives, & it's a complete disrespect to the person on the receiving end. from santa claus to death to everything in between, i won't lie. if it's something i can't explain in simple terms or it's something they just don't need to know yet or can't comprehend, i promise to talk with them about it later. otherwise, i fill in the blanks with simple explanations. not lying also means that i do what i said i'm gonna do, like go to the park or let them have ice cream after dinner or whatever. trust, once broken, is hard to regain.

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  12. Totally agree. No Santa, either, except as a fun story or game. Lying is just playing on a child's gullibility and shows a deep lack of respect for the other person.

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  13. So much of what is said here is great...if it applies to your situation.

    Lying to your child is never ideal. But sometimes, you don't have the luxury of telling the truth. Consider blended family situations. More and more states are passing legislation attempting to prevent parents from alienating each other. In theory, an excellent idea. Unfortunately, its application has, so far, been less than practical. Parents cannot always answer inquiries truthfully, for fear of retaliation through courts or otherwise, up to and including loss of parental access to the child involved.

    There's also the real danger of damaging a child by having them tell the truth. For example, in my situation, my stepson's mother ran out on my now-husband after she discovered she was pregnant. She believed that the child she was carrying belonged to another man; only DNA testing proved he was my husband's son. She, of course, tells everyone that my husband had an affair with me and that's why they're no longer together. She has told this to my stepson, who has asked me questions like, "If you love me so much, why did you take my daddy away from my mommy?"

    I have the choice of telling him the truth, which is that his mother ran out on his father, or the choice of letting him believe what his mother has told him. And I've so far chosen to do the latter. It's definitely a lie, if only in omission. But the alternative, of forcing my son to see his mother for the kind of person she is before he's really equipped to handle it, strikes me as far worse.

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    1. hey there. thank you for sharing your story. your situation is certainly sensitive. like I wrote in the article "I get it, sometimes it’s really tough to face the truth. So I am not judging, because, parenting is so tough" hang in there - sounds to me like you are doing what you can with the situation you are facing.

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  14. Not to be argumentative but just wanted to make a comment to anonymous. Why is lying about cupcakes any different to lying about Santa? A lie is a lie is a lie. Doesn''t matter what it's about. If it's not the truth then it is still a lie regardless of the intent behind it. Yes my kids believe in Santa and the easter bunny and all of those wonderful childhood fantasy's. I think it's okay to have a little make-believe in our lives and guess what? Shock horror..I may have even been guilty of not being totally transparent when it comes to cupcakes and librarys either! I think my kids will live.

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    1. Caz, i think your kids will live too ;) I aim to create questions and some opportunities for us all to pause to think about what/how we are parenting...doesn't mean we have to change a thing,or maybe it gives us the nudge we needed to rethink some things we are doing. thank you for sharing your thoughts here!

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