We teach our children not to lie. We expect them to always be truthful with us. But if we really think about it, what kind of example do we set? Are we always truthful with them?
Should we be?
That might be up for debate. But there are some things we should never lie to our children about, because they can have serious consequences.
The following are a list of lies we regularly tell our children, and the reasons we need to stop.
If they’re bad, the police will get them
Every police officer I’ve talked to (I have a minor in criminal justice) has said that when they walk down the sidewalk, or through a grocery store, they routinely here parents telling their children “You better behave or that policeman is gonna come arrest you!”
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t explain the law to children. But when you make threats like that – silly little ones that aren’t even true – you put up a barrier between your children and the police. And heaven knows with what’s going on in the news right now, there are enough barriers between civilians and police.
Children need to know that if they get lost, get hurt, or need help, they can talk to the police. This could actually be very important if your child ever finds himself in a bad situation.
By telling silly lies like “the police are gonna get you”, we create fear in our children – fear of law enforcement.
Children need to be able to trust police officers, not be afraid of them. Don’t tell you child that if they misbehave, the police are going to get him. That’s bad discipline behaviour anyways. See my next point.
If you don’t quit fighting, I’m gonna turn this car around!
Now, I’m not entirely against this. You can say it –
If you mean it.
The problem with this threat is that we often say it out of desperation, not because we intend to turn the car around. There are a plethora of other examples in this category as well.
Never make a threat you aren’t planning to carry out.
It undermines your authority. Once your children realize you don’t intend to carry out the threats you make, they will be less inclined to respond to them. Which will increase the bad behaviour you were trying to stop.
If you’re on your way to an important event, “I’m gonna turn this car around” doesn’t make sense, because you can’t. You have to be there. You know it. Your kids know it.
If you threaten to discipline your children, make sure that you don’t exaggerate. Tell them exactly what you’re going to do if the negative behaviour doesn’t stop.
And then do it.
Your pet went to the happy animal farm
I wrote an entire post here about why this lie is a no-no.
The concept of death is still abstract to young children. When we make up myths to avoid talking about it, we add to their confusion, making it harder to deal with.
Instead, give your children a very basic explanation. “Spot is dead. He isn’t here anymore. We can remember how special Spot is, and we can talk about him when you miss him.” Very young children may ask questions that indicate they don’t quite understand, and that’s okay. Death is a difficult concept to grasp. Just answer as straightforward and honestly as you can.
Each child may react differently, and it’s important to acknowledge their emotions and let them know that it’s okay for them to feel the way they feel. When we mythologise death, we rob children of the experience of dealing with difficult emotions. It’s better that they learn how to handle big feelings in a positive way, with adult guidance, from a young age.
When you’re older, you’ll understand
Now, this isn’t necessarily a lie. There are some things children can’t understand, like the amount of energy you lose as you grow up. I don’t even understand that. 🙂
The problem is when we use this phrase to avoid explaining difficult things to children.
“When you’re older, you’ll understand” doesn’t work if you never take the time to explain it to them. This is why we end with situations like teenagers who think that STDs are transmitted through oral sex, or that they can’t get pregnant on their first time. Their parents were so desperate to avoid an awkward conversation that they compromised the safety and health of their children.
Don’t do that. Don’t use this phrase as an excuse to shy away from difficult topics.
You don’t have to give children the birds and the bees talk when they’re five – that’s not what I’m saying. But don’t just assume that they’ll learn about these things somewhere along the way, because they may not. Or they may be given inaccurate information.
Empower children by answering their questions in a simple and logical manner.
Everyone’s a winner
This one makes me chuckle, because it has penetrated our society so strongly. We see this everywhere: sports events, school, summer camp.
Everyone’s a winner. Everyone deserves a prize.
This is communism. I almost said “communism in disguise”, but that would be inaccurate. It’s communism plain and simple.
What I find funny is that while so many Americans balk at the ideology of communism, they turn right around the pull the “everyone’s a winner” card.
Now that we’ve uncovered this lie for what it is, let’s see why it’s damaging to tell it to our children.
One of the biggest problems with communism was that it weakened work ethic. Why work hard if everyone will just be awarded the same salary?
The problem is the same with children. We take away their motivation to try by devaluing their efforts. If the lazy child is praised and awarded in the same manner as the diligent child, the diligent child will begin to slack off, realizing that they can earn the same benefits without working as hard.