The Most Important Lies You Need to Tell Your Children


Lying is bad. That’s what you tell your kids about three seconds before telling them that if they don’t pick up their toys right now their Elf on the Shelf is going to fly back to the North Pole while they sleep and tell Santa all about how naughty they were and Christmas isn’t going to happen. Liar; we’re all liars. If you have a child, you are a liar. If ever you’ve been pulled over for speeding, you’ve lied (oh, officer, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I was going that fast). If ever you’ve been late to work, you’ve lied (my alarm clock never went off because the power was out….after I hit the snooze button 67 times and then closed my eyes again). We all lie. Most of us keep it to the small white lies that we feel aren’t hurting anyone, and we are probably right (Yes, you look amazing with that new haircut dear friend!). At the end of the day, however, we sit our kids down and lecture them into tomorrow about how bad it is to lie, and then we lie to them about how it’s bedtime even though it’s an hour early (hey, it’s dark). So, is it all right to lie to your kids? The simple answer is yes. There is a time and a place to lie to your kids, and medical professionals and parenting experts agree that there are a few important lies we do need to tell our kids for various reasons. Find out what they are by reading on.

The Existence of Mythical Creatures

Imagine yourself at age 4 being told that Santa isn’t real and the tooth fairy is actually a harried mother searching her bag in hopes she has something smaller than a $20 bill to leave under her kids’ pillow at night or a father being sent to the ATM and then the convenience store to break a $20 once he gets one. How heartbroken would you be? How sad would have been as a child to realize upon walking in the gates of Disney that Mickey and Minnie are not, in fact, real? It would have been a difficult realization as a child that all the things that make you happy, the things that let your imagination run wild, are fiction. Kids will eventually learn that Santa is not real and that Mickey is a person dressed in a suit not getting paid nearly enough money to sweat all day while hugging a million questionable scented children. They’ll learn; don’t take it away from them before they are ready. Kids have imaginations and theories and pretend lives that mean everything to them; and it’s totally okay to lie about that so that you can foster their creativity and happiness. And on a far more selfish and shallow basis; if we tell the kids Santa isn’t real, we lose our behavioral modification tool for the last few months of the year, so yeah, no.

To Protect Against Reality

We can go back and forth debating the merits of lying to our kids to protect them from reality. You might say that reality bites and the truth hurts and kids need to get used to that harsh reality (haha, pun not intended). I might say that some kids are just too young to have the harsh slap of reality hit them now. A preteen might understand and be able to comfortably comprehend harsh realities, but a 5-year-old might not. For example, I will protect my young children from the harsh realities of the world as much as I can, and I learned that the hard way. After my 6-year-old daughter asked for her 3rd bowl of cereal after having pancakes and toast, I lost my patience. It was mostly because the second I’d sit down at my desk to work or sit down to change a dirty diaper or do something for someone else, she’d ask me to get her something else. She wasn’t trying to help herself or make my morning easier, she was being a pain in my neck. I harshly snapped at her that some kids in some countries don’t get to eat one breakfast a week let alone four breakfasts in one day. I found her sobbing quietly in her room a few minutes later when she asked me if there are kids that really don’t get to eat and what happens to them. I realized this is information she has no business knowing. It hurt her. She couldn’t understand it, and she is still, months later, upset by this information. From now on, the harsh realities of the world are a no-go for her. We evaluate that in a situational basis as need be.

Family Problems

This is a fine line; and it’s important to understand when not to cross it. When it comes to family problems, kids do not need to know everything. Yes, they are intelligent enough to realize that you and daddy aren’t getting along or that grandma is very sick. Don’t lie about those things. Stretch the truth, try to make it sound upbeat or be flat-out honest; it’s up to you as you’re the one who knows what your kids can and cannot handle. However, there are some things you just don’t lie about. When grandpa passes away, telling the kids he went away is only going to make them one day question when he’s coming back. Be honest about things like that. However, if you’re going through financial issues or job issues or whatever as a family, your kids don’t need to know. They don’t need the worry of things that are temporary or out of their control when they have other things to worry about. Let them live their carefree lives as long as possible and bring them up to speed only when your family issues will directly affect them and their lives.

Privacy Issues

Sometimes you have to lie to your kids to protect your privacy. For instance, when you and your spouse decide it’s time to end your marriage because he’s more interested in his new girlfriend (or you your new boyfriend), you don’t have to tell the kids. You can simply tell them that you’ve decide you no longer love each other enough to live together, but that you love each other for being parents, and that you’ve decided to live apart. They don’t need to know that one of you didn’t live up to your vows. They just do not need to know all about your private life. Keep it private; older kids might understand and pick up on other cues, but sometimes lying to protect your privacy and your children’s feelings about their other parent is important.

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images


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