Oh, admit it! You do it every day. Lying to your children, that is. From the moment children come into this world, parents become the largest catalysts of the biggest lies ever told. If you don’t believe it, catch an episode of American Idol, where a bunch of idiots without an iota of talent stand on a stage in front of the world to display their believed ‘singing talent,’ – all because some mom or dad out there told them that not only could they sing’, but that they could sing well. Luckily, it makes for great entertainment but you have to wonder what all of our parental lies are actually doing to our children? Is it a disservice to lie to our kids? Or is it simply the nice thing to do in order to promote confidence.
When it comes to lying to your children, there are obviously different levels of lies.
For instance, you don’t necessarily want to restrict your three or four year old, or levy their confidence by telling them that they cannot do something, or that they aren’t ‘good’ at something. So, early parenting is full of praise for accomplishment. We are conditioned as parents to constantly remind our children that ‘anything is possible,’ that ‘the world is their oyster,’ and that as long as they work hard, stay committed there isn’t anything that a child cannot do or be. So they take their first wobbly steps and we encourage and praise. They play their first soccer game, and we tell them how awesome they are (even give them a trophy for their efforts despite the fact they were clueless on the field). They bring home their first art project, and parents tell them how awesome it is, even though mom and dad have no idea what their child was trying to draw or paint. Lies like these are ultimately benign in the short term.
Then, kids get older and the lies get a little more devious. We start lying about family issues, about drunken Uncle Charlie who is a methamphetamine addict. We lie about daddy’s drinking problem. Lie about money. Most of these lies are outward, but are accomplished through hiding things from our children. They grow up often with a false sense of security and an obscure objection of some of the simplest things in their lives. These lies to, are benign in intention designed to protect children from the harsh realities of life, but lies nonetheless.
Children grow more and the lies grow with them. They ask mom and dad if they ever smoked dope, and of course mom and dad say no. Talks about premarital sex, alcohol, respect, and performance are all laced with lies based on our expectations of kids. And of course, there are still a ton of parents who are promoting a false sense of success for their children telling them they are good at something that they are clearly not good at, in the hopes of promoting self-confidence and remaining encouraging.
The funny lies we tell, such as eating your boogers will give you worms, or if you aren’t good Santa wont come, or if you don’t sit quietly in your car seat the police will take mommy away to jail are lies of convenience. Or what about the if you make that face it will freeze that way, lie? Essentially, as parents we run out of reasonable things to say to our children so fall back on fear based parenting (which works by the way) in order to force our kids to listen, or do something that is beneficial to us in that moment. (If you say you have never done this then you are LYING.)
The interesting thing is that while we are constantly lying in one form or another we are also encouraging our children to participate in living by an ‘honesty is the best policy’ motto. Talk about double standards and hypocrisy.
Interestingly, back in January of 2012 the Today Moms portion of the Today Show did a survey of 26,000 moms to see just how much lying is going on in homes across North America. In the poll, (only) over a third admitted to lying to their children. And more than 2/3rds admitted to lying IN FRONT OF their children. According to sociology experts, the latter is actually more detrimental to child development than the little white lies we tell our children in order to ‘play nice,’ and save their feelings.
Moms are notorious for lying in front of their children. Your neighbor asks you to baby-sit and because their child is a lunatic you say you have plans and then make those crazy eye gestures to your son so he knows to keep his mouth shut and not call you out on the so-called plans. Or when your mother in law calls and you do not answer the phone and then tell her later that you and the kids were outside playing. The list is endless.
Bottom line, parents are liars. At one point or another, a child is going to catch you off-guard with a question or behavior, you are going to be frustrated with a situation, regretful about your past, worried about their future, or invested in their present circumstances that you are going to lie to your children. And chances are also pretty high, that you are going to lie about something in front of your children at some point or another all in the interest of privacy.
But here’s the thing. If your child is 15 years old and wants to try out for American Idol because you have been lying about their so-called singing talents for years and years its time to come clean. it’s better that YOU burst their bubble than allow them to be embarrassed and humiliated in front of millions of people, which will definitely do more damage to their self confidence and self esteem than the truth, coming from you as someone they love.