When to Stop Lying to Kids? Moms Weigh In
When should parents stop lying to kids? Moms weight in with insight on Santa Claus, little white lies and toddler development.
With the holiday season looming in the distance, many parents are starting to have discussions about things like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Year-round parents simplify facts like, “carrots will make you have better vision” and outright lie with gems like, “keep making that face and it’ll get stuck like that!” Where do we draw the line? When does a little white lie turn into a developmental hindrance? We asked experienced parents to weigh in based on their own experiences.
Children are likely to feel less deceived when the truth comes out if they’ve been told a more basic version of facts as opposed to hearing outright whoppers. “You should try to find simpler ways to explain things to children,” says mother of three Nickida Stephens. “Share more as they get older and are able to understand better.”
Think Through the Story
Other parents choose to think through the reason behind fairy tales or the messaging behind common mistruths. “It’s all in the presentation,” says Ellen Lafleche-Christian, a mom of two teenagers striving to live a simpler lifestyles. “For us Santa Claus is real. Not in the jolly fat man who comes down the chimney but in the spirit of Saint Nicholas who was known for his generosity toward children. By saying Santa Claus (or Saint Nicholas) left presents, we are honoring his memory by being generous to each other. We make sure they understand the real reason for the Americanized holidays.
The trouble for many parents is that small lies often lead to bigger untruths with curious kids. “I don’t think parents should lie to their children,” said mom blogger Emily Stephens. “I tell my son not to do certain things, but give him a reason why. I teach him not to call people names because it hurts their feelings, not to make mean faces at people because it isn’t kind, to eat his vegetables because they help him stay healthy. Lying about small things just makes it okay to lie about big things. I want our relationship to be honest and open, like I had with my parents.”
Shielding them from Pain
A common lie told to kids is one about painful life experiences like illness or death. It’s not unusual for parents to tell kids that their pet ran away or was given to another family, but does that save them from dealing with hardship in the long run? “Death is a natural part of life,” explained kid product expert Sarah Huz. “I wouldn’t tell my daughter her grandmother went to live on a farm, so why the family pet?”
Little White Lies
Sometimes, (particularly in public!) a little while lie can save toddlers from a meltdown and make the day go just a little more smoothly. Busy working mom Meagan Paullin admitted, “It’s tough to NOT lie about things like, ‘Oh the cookies are all gone. Sorry!’” This hits home especially for parents of special needs children. Tiffany Ellman has 9-year-old with autism and doesn’t mind resorting to a quick tale to keep things in line. ”Their anxiety is off the charts so sometimes I do it to keep them from a major meltdown.”
Some parents continue the tradition of fairy tales to give their children beautiful memories, as is the case with homeschooler Michelle Cantu. “I lie to my kids for the sake of them having a ‘magical childhood.’” Other parents, however, disagree and opt out of the Santa thing altogether. “Young children have a hard time differentiating between reality and fantasy,” insists former preschool teacher Kari Robinson. “Telling little white lies does them no favors, it just muddles the line.”
What’s your take? Where do you land on the parenting debate between all fact and occasional fantasy?
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