Every time I say, “Never lie to your kids,” someone responds with, “What about Santa, and the Easter Bunny? What about playing pretend?” I sometimes think people like to stir things up, and create difficulties where there are none.
Lies and fantasy are not the same thing, and we know that when we are not trying to be obtuse. Lies are ugly. Lies are self-serving, meant to gain an advantage for the liar. Lies hurt, and cause damage and resentment. Everyone has, at some point in their lives, been hurt by a lie. Remember that feeling, because it is not something we wish for our progeny.
There is a real difference between lies and pretend. Pretend is a game everyone has agreed to play. No one was ever hurt by being brought into the club to help keep the secret of Santa.
The other side of the coin is that well meaning parents want to protect their kids from some of the less magical aspects of life, and lie in order to guard their child’s innocence and happiness. We forget that there is a price tag on the lie that will come due when it is found out. The result of “Sure we can afford that toy,” and “Grandma just went on a long trip,” is a lack of trust, and panic when Aunt Judy goes on her next trip.
The solution to this is simple. Don’t tell them things you don’t want them to know. Tell them they are too young, or you’ll have to think about that, or just “No.”
Don’t lie. Because…
- …you’ll get caught. You have to keep track of all of your lies; your munchkin only has to remember what you said. You are the most important person in their lives. They watch you and pay attention. They will notice.
- …you don’t want your child to lie to you, and fair is fair.
- …kids incorporate anything a parent does into their own self image. If their parent is a liar, then so must they be.
- …they need to trust you on matters of safety. If you have never lied to them they will know you are telling the truth when you say, “drugs are dangerous,” or “random sex will hurt you.”
- …kids thrive when they feel secure. They need to know they can count on their parents, and have a safe base from which to launch their lives. Lies will erode that security.
- …it is much easier to have self respect, and take pride one’s accomplishments, when one has honestly accomplished them. As you go, so will they follow.
- …you want your children to succeed in both their work and their relationships; a habit of honesty will help in both.
- …the respect of your children must be earned, not granted as an automatic part of being a parent. Lying tarnishes that respect.
- …when they see you deserving of and expecting respect as an honest, trustworthy person, so will they demand respect in their own lives and relationships.
- …last, they can trust that they are wonderful and capable of anything, because you told them so, and you never lie.