Lying to children

I’ll be honest, I’ve lost track of the number of lies I’ve told my children. Before becoming a parent, I probably had the rather inflexible view that lying is wrong and should be avoided. That morality stumbled at almost the first parenting hurdle.

A study published in the International Journal of Psychology confirms what every parent already knows – an overwhelming majority of us lie to our children regularly.

About 200 families in the United States and China were studied and the conclusion, reports the BBC, is that the most common lie was threatening children with leaving them alone in a public place unless they behaved.

I’m very familiar with this particular lie. I employ the threat almost daily.

I remember walking home from my closest food shop not very long ago. It’s a walk that should take less than five minutes, but I had the Raging Bull with me. Whenever the Raging Bull is with me, time becomes irrelevant and foolish to factor in. Five minutes can easily become 20.

On the short walk back, the Bull decided that she just couldn’t go any further than the corner of our street; we were two minutes away.

I was carrying two bags of heavy shopping and couldn’t ‘cuddle’ her if I tried. Besides, I decided in a fit of frustration, I wasn’t going to cave in like other soft-touch parents on this particular issue.

I felt myself sliding into very dangerous territory here. It was like standing on a sheet of cracking ice. Give in on this walk and I will find myself sinking into icy waters. I would drown in a long line of, ‘I want a cuddle, I am tired, I want a cuddle,’ until the Raging Bulls turns 13 and decides she can’t be seen with me anymore.

Initially I tried to negotiate. Bad mistake. I tried employing bribery and the promise of chocolate, another favorite tactic. She wasn’t taking the bait. I could see that she was in her intractable terrorist mode.

Getting nowhere after five long minutes and several ear-piercing screams, I abandoned her on the street corner and told her I was leaving. I hid behind a bush to watch if she’d move.

Sadly, I lost this battle and walked back to the corner, minus the shopping bags, to pick her up and carry her home in a huff.

Today I heard the English Husband telling the Raging Bull – who was refusing to get dressed – that she had to wear leggings if she wanted to eat at McDonald’s. This is probably somewhere between a lie and a bribe.

The Chatterbox, meanwhile, has been told a whole spectrum of lies. I’ve championed the existence of Santa Claus when she voiced doubt; told her that tooth fairies don’t work on Sundays when I forgot to leave money under the pillow; suggested that eating vegetables will make you grow faster (no idea if this is true); and told her, in no uncertain terms, that she will end up penniless if she doesn’t go to college.

Do I feel bad about these half-lies, these possible untruths? Hell no.

I suspect the kids will learn very soon, like all of us do, that we not only tell small lies to others but we lie to ourselves. How else to get through life?

And, frankly, how else to get a screaming/ranting child out of a toy shop without saying, ‘I don’t have any money now, I left it at home, but we could return later.’

What lies do you tell your children? I’d be curious to know.



Filed under motherhood

4 responses to “Lying to children

  1. Cousin

    When I was younger it was: I had to go to sleep or “El Cookuy” was going to come get me. Or my mom would close all the blinds and curtains and tell me it was night time already so I had to go to sleep. I also remember my mom telling me she had no money and I would tell her, “Yes you do. In your checks!!” Later when I was 18 it was: You need to come home because your Dad is awake and asking where you are. He’d be snoring in another room of the house when I got home.

    • I’ve yet to employ the threat of a monster to get the Raging Bull to go to sleep, but I wouldn’t rule it out. My fear is that the imaginary monster would actually keep her awake in terror! It’s funny that your mom used your dad as excuse to get you home. I think my mother always scared me more.

  2. Chavel

    I remember one vividly last year. I would always tell my 20 year old at that time, you need to eat those vegetables so you can be healthy and grow more. One day he turned around and said, mom, you have been telling me for years to eat the vegetables and I have not grown an inch taller than 5 feet 10 inches since I was 15.

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