“Tell me lies, tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies…”
– Fleetwood Mac “Little Lies” (1987)
We’ve all done it before many times, and with mostly good intentions. We’ve done it to make them feel better, to bolster their self-esteem, to give them a fantasy world to escape to, to stop them from crying, or maybe even to hide our own embarrassment over a poor performance or behavior.
What is “it?” We’ve LIED TO OUR CHILDREN!
I capitalize and italicize that phrase in hopes that the truth and reality of it will somehow sink in as you read on. One of the few consistent teachings received by most children is the wrongness of lying. From their earliest days on earth, children are besieged with interrogations and threats such as, “Did you hit your sister?! Did you?! Don’t you lie to me!!!!” Or, “Did you cheat on your test, Johnny? You better tell your teacher the truth!”
So we, as parents, drill into them the evil of lying, then routinely and shamelessly spout off the following lies:
“Better get to sleep, because Santa Claus is coming to town!”
“The Easter Bunny brought you some candy and a new outfit!!”
“Put that tooth under your pillow and the Tooth Fairy will give you a dollar!”
“You’re just as good a player (dancer, singer, cheerleader, gymnast, etc.) as he/she is!”
I could go on, but you get the idea. We have a tendency to lie to our children about so many things as they grow and develop in their formative years. Then we wonder why they cannot function as self-sufficient adults when reality smacks them upside the head.
Lying to a child has many negative consequences. It has not a single benefit, unless you consider shutting little Susie’s crying up a benefit. And once she figures out you lied to her, the crying will come back with a vengeance! So let’s take a look at the negative impacts. Lying to your child…
…introduces doubt into their minds every time you tell them something that you cannot tangibly prove then and there. After all, mom/dad lied for years about the fat guy in the red suit, so who really knows? Try convincing your child that Jesus is real (if you believe He is, and I do), after you’ve lied to them for 9 years about Satan Claus. Jesus sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good. And so does Santa……or so they’ve been told. See the problem here?
…teaches them that everything in the universe, seen and unseen, exists for their good, for their benefit. I have never heard a parent say, “Put that rotten tooth under your pillow Johnny, and the Tooth Fairy’s gonna come in and whoop your behind in the middle of the night!” Placing some realistic fear in your child’s mind about the unknown is good. You teach two lessons this way – 1) that there is evil in the world, and they had better be aware of its existence, and maintain situational awareness to fend it off; and 2) that the way to alleviate those fears is through knowledge. It’s normal for a child to be afraid of a great white shark. But after that child learns there are no sharks in the local lake or stream, he can enjoy swimming without fear.
…gives them an unrealistic view of life. Example: when I was a kid playing baseball, there were awards (trophies) given to teams who WON. Teams who lost got a snow cone, unless their dad was too ticked off at their sorry performance on the field to buy them one. “Son, you have to EARN a snow cone! Now get back on the field and let me hit you some grounders!” There were also rewards given to the BEST players. The first year our league had an All-Star game, myself and two other players were chosen to represent our team. Why? Because we were the best players on our team. And no one else whined about it, because they had been taught that everyone is NOT a good ballplayer, and therefore not worthy of All-Star recognition. Today, every player gets a trophy just for showing up. How does that mindset serve them when they are cut from the high school basketball team, or rejected for a promotion at work, or beaten out by a better candidate for a scholarship? It doesn’t, and instead of understanding they have weaknesses which must be worked on if they are to achieve a certain promotion or position, they grumble about how the system screwed them over and how life’s not fair. Well finally, a bit of TRUTH! Which leads us to our final point:
…teaches them life is fair. But life is NOT fair, and the sooner they realize that, the sooner they will become equipped to handle those unexpected ups and downs. When they realize life is not fair, they will learn to improvise, adapt, and overcome. They will learn the value of hard work, 100% effort, and perseverance. They will learn that no one owes them a living, but that with discipline and dependability, they can achieve almost anything.
So please, mom and dad, don’t tell lies to your kids. No white lies. No sweet little lies. No lies at all. The day will come when that grown young man or woman who used to be your child will thank you profusely. I know.