Parents all lie to their kids every day, they just don’t realise it. You may tell your child not to lie, but continually saying these lies, no matter how small teaches them to lie as well. They will think it is ok to lie, since Mommy and Daddy lie.
As a parent, I totally understand sometimes we lie to protect our kids, we love them so much that we don’t want them to get hurt. However, I came to realise that lying actually does no good to our kids, it will only back-fire and turn our kids into liars. That’s obviously not what we want so we need to stop doing that and be true to both ourselves and our kids.
Some of the Everyday Lies Parents Tell Unconsciously
Here are some examples of lies that parents will often tell their kids, along with better solutions. These are examples to help you brain storm your own solutions to the little lies you may be telling your child on a regular basis.
1. “Santa Clause is watching you.”
Instead of threatening them with Santa not giving them gifts, take away something in the here and now so they know their behavior has immediate consequences. If they are fighting with their sister and you want the fighting to stop so you say Santa is watching (and eventually they will find out you are big fat liar on this one) have a consequence for their behavior. Have a realistic punishment like taking away electrics for a few hours or giving them a time out period. The one ask parenting method works well for siblings fighting and is explained in this article: Effective Way of Talking with Children.
2. “I will never let anything bad happen to you.”
This may be your intention, but it may not be possible. You can’t protect your child 100% of the time. Instead, use the truth, but frame it so the child does feel protected, yet aware of real dangers. Saying something like “I will always try to protect you, but there are bad people out there so that’s why I don’t want you to wander away from me in a store, as there are kids that are taken from their Mommies and Daddies. I am here to protect you, but if you wander away, then I am not there and you could be putting yourself in danger”. It may be scary, but its also a truthful reality. You don’t want to cause them any undue anxiety, so choose your words carefully. Let them know although kidnappings are rare, it is still something all kids and parents should be aware of, so that they are cautious of strangers when out it public.
3. “The park is closed.”
You know very well the park is open, but you don’t have time to take the kids to the park because you have errands to run. Instead of lying, be honest. “Mommy can’t take you to the park today because we have to get groceries for the week so we can have meals and I have some other important errands that have to be done today.” They may whine and complain, but that’s ok, they will learn the reality of life is that they can’t have everything that they want all the time. Telling the truth also helps make you an honest parent and not a liar, because eventually they will get old enough and realize you are lying about the park being closed.
4. “It won’t hurt, I promise”
They need to get a shot from the doctor, but they are screaming and you want the screaming to stop so they can get the shot. However, they are screaming because they know you are lying. You said it wouldn’t hurt the first time they got shots. They know better. They learned from the pain that you lied. Don’t lie. Let them know it will be a small poke, a little pain, but then its over and they get a sucker. Explain that they need the shot, for whatever health reason. Don’t be a liar. This one will quickly make you the bad guy because if you tell them it won’t hurt and hurts immensely you are the one to blame. The reality is that shots do hurt, but the pain does go away, so lead with that bit of truth and you will find them trusting you more, not less.
5. “You are the best artist, great job on your painting!”
Don’t bother praising your child when you aren’t sincere. Believe it or not, kids are not as gullible as you think. They can pick up on tone of voice, body language, and know when you aren’t completely being truthful. Instead, you can praise their creativity or the ingenuity in their work. Praise them for something you believe is true about their work and abilities, not an end product that is just mediocre.
6. “Its bed time!”
Its only 7:30 and not really time for bed, since you know their actual bedtime is 8:00. Simple solution: “its time to start getting ready for bed”. Words matter. You may have meant that its time to get ready for bed, but what you said was that “its bedtime”. Once they begin to tell time, you want to make sure you are saying what you mean and mean what you say. Its all about maintaining the trust between you and your child. It may be a little white lie, but lies upon lies mount up to become bigger trust issues.
7. “I don’t know what happened to your artwork that was hanging on the fridge.”
You know what happened to it because you threw it away. You can’t keep every piece of artwork because you simply don’t have the space to keep all of it. The best solution is to explain this to your child. Show them the drawer or bin where you do keep the best or most meaningful pieces that they make. They can put things there if they want to make sure they are saved. If the bin gets full, then its time for them to help sort through and recycle the pieces that they no longer want to keep. This gives them responsibility over their artwork, and it also makes you an honest parent.
8. “I will be there in a minute.”
Yes, your intention is good. You do want to be there to tuck them in or to help them with their project or whatever it may be. However, you are paying bills and want to finish up what you are doing. Then tell them just that. Tell them that you need to finish paying bills and then you can come to help them. Don’t lie by saying it is a minute, because it may be longer, and the more the time passes before you come to them then the more it makes you out to be a liar. Avoid the lie, by simply telling the truth and being specific.
9. “I am going to leave this house without you.”
Instead of using a scare tactic, use specific and realistic consequences to move them into action. You can say “if you don’t have your shoes on and are ready to get into the car within 5 minutes, then you will lose your TV privileges for the evening.” Be sure to follow through with the consequences every time. You will find you have a child who listens to you because of what you say, not because they are scared into action, but because your words have weight.
10. “We don’t have enough money to xxx.”
Instead of lying, explain it to your child on their level. Tell them you all want to go on vacation so we can’t go to the movies and sometimes do other things. Help them understand that sometimes to do something really special and fun, it involves sacrifice. Not only are you teaching them a valuable life lesson, but you are also not making yourself a liar.
Compared to lying, knowing the truth is the best way for your kids to learn and grow
1. Learning about the consequences of bad behavior is the quickest way to correct them.
If your child throws a fit at the checkout every time you go shopping because they want candy so you say “I will get it for you next time”, you are setting yourself up for failure in the future. Eventually the child will realize you say this every time so they will continue throwing fits and their behavior can escalate.
Be honest, and have consequences for their fit throwing. With this in mind you need to have a solution ready for the next time you are at the checkout. Perhaps before you enter the store you have a chat with your child on their level explaining that fit throwing will not be accepted.
Let your child know there is a specific punishment if a fit is thrown in the store, such as no TV time for the rest of that day. They may still throw the fit, but when you follow through with that punishment they will learn quickly that their actions do have consequences, because you will follow through on your word. Your words have the power to make you a parent who is trustworthy or not and the development of this trust starts during early childhood.
2. It’s better to learn from honest comments than to avoid disappointments.
It is better to be honest and disappoint your child and they perhaps suffer small disappointments along the way, rather than damaging the relationship you have with that child long term. Trust is the foundation of that long term relationship. When you miss your child’s soccer game because you were having dinner with a friend and the game slipped your mind. Instead of being honest you tell your child “I am sorry I had to miss the soccer game, I had an important work meeting I couldn’t miss”.
These are the sort of white lies that create distrust over time, as the child will figure things out and realize you are lying. Perhaps you run into that friend with your child and they say how great it was to have that meal together and catch up. Your child now knows you lied. You are caught. Wouldn’t it have been better to tell the truth? Of course, so make it a habit of telling the truth even if it may be slightly uncomfortable or painful for you or the child. Trust is the most important foundation in the relationship, so don’t damage it when you can simply be honest and truthful in all things.
You should have simply told your child “I am so sorry I didn’t make it to the game, I was having dinner with a friend and I simply forgot about the game. I will make an effort to be at the next one because I feel bad I missed the game”. Being truthful is always best. You gain credibility with your honesty, even if you are admitting a fault. Psychology Today discussed this topic of parents lying to avoid disappointment and stated the following:
The reality is that children can deal with almost any disappointment if provided parental support. It works the other way as well whereby if children are repeatedly lied to by parents they begin to doubt and distrust even the simplest realities.
Be honest, don’t lie, as it damages the child’s ability to trust you in the future. Little trust leads to bigger trust. If your child can’t trust you in the small issues, how are they going to trust you with the big issues, such as drug use or sex. All parents want their children to have open lines of communication and trust with their child, but many greatly diminish that trust relationship during early childhood because of the little lies told during those formative years.