When Is It OK To Lie To Your Kids?

Filed under: Opinions

Is it OK to lie to your kids sometimes?

Is lying to your children ever acceptable? Or should you always tell them the truth? Image: Amazon.com

Over at MomLogic, psychologist Dr. Cara Gardenswartz tells us about some of the lies that parents tell their kids. She suggests that these lies are not needed, and that the truth is a better path. It won't necessarily set you free. But it is better.

Some of Dr. Gardenswartz's examples are pretty straightforward. I would never say "The car doesn't work until your seat belts are buckled." I go with "Put your seatbelt on." While in a taxi with my son and one of his friends, the friend told me that his parents don't make him wear a seatbelt. I calmly informed him that he wasn't with his parents at the moment. After staring at me for a second with a look of shock on his face, he buckled up.

So in general, I agree. But I think there are times when it is acceptable to lie to children.

For example:Kid: "I want another cookie."
Parent: "We're all out."

While I have no problem telling children no, you can't have any more cookies, sometimes it's just easier to say there aren't any more. For me, I do this when I'm just too tired to be in the studio audience for an Emmy Award-worthy meltdown. Cop-out? Absolutely.

Situation: child wonders why mommy and daddy's door was locked at 10 o'clock at night. And what those funny noises were.

Depending on how old the child is, it's not the worst thing to tell them "Nothing. Go back to bed." Could you tell "the truth," and give a song and dance about how mommy and daddy love each other, and they were showing how much they love each other, and blah blah blah? Or come up with an elaborate and bizarre lie, like mommy and daddy were singing one of their favorite Yoko Ono songs? ("Ahhhh! Ohhhh! Ooooaaaaeeee!!!") Not worth it. Not everything requires an explanation.

I do disagree slightly with the good doctor when it comes to the death of a pet. I don't think the lie "Fluffy (the cat) went to live with Mommy and Daddy Cat" is a good idea. But "Fluffy died" (wait to see their response) seems a bit harsh. A dollop of sympathy, even "I'm sorry Fluffy died," seems more compassionate to me.

What do you think? Are there times when lying to children is OK? When? Or should we always tell them the truth, no matter what?

Brett Singer is the editor-in-chief of DaddyTips.com. You can follow his tweets at Twitter.com/brettsinger.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.