Is "honesty the best policy"?

[deleted account] ( 29 moms have responded )

Is it EVER ok to lie to our children? What are some examples of lies that are "acceptable" and lies that are not? Should we always be honest, even if it's in a simple form? By leaving something out are you lying?

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Dawna - posted on 08/12/2010

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I think that lies are an integral part of society. People do it on a daily basis in most places, and learning to lie correctly and appropriately is important for children to grow well socially. To make the blanket statement that all lies are wrong is confusing and a lie in itself. We all know there are times when a lie is appropriate and necessary, and to not teach our children when those times are is to do them a huge disservice.

That being said, I am careful in the lies I tell my daughter, and "lies of omission", if they exist, are often used to help soften the blow of certain situations. I DO NOT lie to my child to avoid having to answer difficult questions, save face, punish her or in other harmful situations. If I was wrong, I admit it. And, if a difficult situation, such as a family member gettting arrested, arises, I tell her honestly what happened, but sometimes I do simplify the details to a level she can understand.

Anyone who thinks all lies are wrong all of the time has never had to deal with an overbearing person who will pester you to answer a question a certain way whether it is true or not, and not answering them in the desired manner leads to a fight or fit of some kind. In some situations, lies are a form of self-defense and are necessary. For instance, a child telling a stranger that his/her parent is home/coming home; or someone yelling, "I called the cops! They're on their way!" to scare off a burglar.

There are other examples, of course, but I think ultimately it's up to the parent to use their own moral compass. Just please don't tell your kids to never, ever lie, because a lie really can save someone in dangerous situations. And to be honest, I have told my daughter the wrong kind of lie on the rare occassion, usually on days when mommy needs more sleep and a refill on patience. I do strive to be better than that, though. :)

[deleted account]

I didn't read all the posts but from past experience, NO WAY I would lie to my child about that kind of situation.

My brother got arrested at my house and my son was there. Moreover, uncle was living with us at that point...Shawn was visibly puzzled by the whole "uncle is not living with us anymore"...

I know Shawn is young but we have already told him that sometimes people make bad choices in life and that there are consequences to all our actions. Uncle decided to break the law and he had to face the consequences. I just told him that some actions have bigger consequences than others.. and when you break the law and don't face up to the consequences, they will catch up to you eventually. Which happened with uncle...

I don't sugar coat it, I just don't give details of what Uncle did or didn't do. Not necessary for a child that age to know.

[deleted account]

I'd tell the truth if it was something serious. They need to understand that certain circumstances require certain actions. You don't have to go into detail but it's not worth confusing them.

In regards to that situation Dana I would have said "Yes it's Uncle Steve, he's upset and the policemen just want to talk to him".

JuLeah - posted on 08/05/2010

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My daughter will tell you the tooth fairy came and left her a $1.

She will tell you about Santa too if you ask.

I tell my kid not to worry, she will make a lot of new friends at her new school. I don't know, just hope that is true. So, it is a lie.

I think, and this is based on my own up bringing, that a lie is wrong if it messes with their heads.

So the kids hear screaming and yelling and things being thrown and are later told, "No Mom and Dad were not fighting. Don't be silly"

The lie is told because the parents don't what the kid to worry, but the kid is now left thinking that they can not trust what they hear - can't trust their own ears.

The tension in the room is thick enough to cut. The kid sees fake smiles and is told what a happy happy family she has.

Now the kid can't trust what she feels - learns to mistrust her gut ..... lies like that mess kids up - don't tell them

I would suggest not asking your kid to lie about their age so you can get them into the movie at half price - I think things like that are wrong too.

Guess it is about balance and we all draw the line in different places based on our own best judgemnt

Dawna - posted on 08/12/2010

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Also, kids are way smarter than most people give them credit for, really, so if a person is lying to them just to save the trouble of explaining or because they think the kid won't get it, they're doing more harm than good. Especially if they are asking them to ignore what they have seen/heard/experienced themselves to believe in the lie the adult just told them. That kind of thing just throws off their internal compasses.

So, Dana, I guess I would say lying is OK, but your SIL was wrong in her use of a lie. Just mho.

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Angela - posted on 07/09/2011

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Quite a minefield here!

"Mind your own business" can be used as an answer where children ask questions about stuff you don't believe they should know.

I made a few enemies in the neighbourhood when my kids were small because my oldest son in particular "knew" things about them that they weren't even sharing with their own kids!

I encouraged him with reading skills and at the age of 6 he could read the newspaper fluently. So stories in the local newspaper about local people getting into trouble with the Law were carried back to school and chatted about .....

Oops!!

Jodi - posted on 08/14/2010

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Ok, I haven't been around much lately, so I have come into this thread late, but I just HAD to address Cathy's comment ""No, sorry Mummy hasn't got any money today"



I did this one and it backfired really embarrassingly on me. I still laugh about it. My son wanted to ride on one of those big red cars (or maybe a Thomas) in a shopping centre one day and I told him no, I had no money. The little bugger started going up to strangers asking them for money because his mummy doesn't have any...... I've never done that again, but I laugh about it!!!!

T - posted on 08/14/2010

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I am a fan of leaving things out. Also of telling my child that this is an adult matter and I don't want to talk to them about it. I don't look at these things as lies because I technically have not TOLD a lie. But things need to be left out to protect our children, I believe. For example, my son notices I'm sad and asks me why. I tell him I don't want to talk about it, that it's an adult matter. The reason I'm sad has nothing to do with you I tell him (it has to do with abuse incurred in my childhood, which he does not need to know about). I don't think it's fair to actually lie to our children and then expect them to be honest. Practice what you preach.

Amanda - posted on 08/06/2010

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I say lie if you have to, it depends on the family and the situation...I lie to my son about alot of things but then their are some things I tell the truth about...if the situation that happened to you happened to me then yes I would tell my son his uncle did a bad thing and the police had to take him away...we try to make him understand in his way what is going on and that their is good and bad ppl and that their are good and bad things to do...its also hard to know what to say until your faced witha situation like that...but I would stay honest...things like santa and the tooth fairy, getting him to eat veggies I will lie or brib him how ever I like there is nothing wrong with that, that I can see...I do know a woman who has two grown children and she has never lied to them ever and they grew up never beliving in santa, she thought it was wrong but to each their own I say.

[deleted account]

Honesty is best and i always tell my oldest the truth about things when she asks and i do it age appropriate of course.My partners Grandad died and she began to ask a lot of questions about death and will she die etc..so hard to answer but i told her Grandad had a very good and happy life and now that he is old and not very well it was hes time to meet god.She asked 'when i am old will i die'..i said nothing and she asked again 'mom will i die'and i said no baby you wont.I wasnt able to say we all die when we get old,shes not old enough to understand and i cant leave her thinking one day she will die.Her face said it all asking the question and shes a child who over thinks a lot and holds things in..I DIDNT KNOW WHAT TO SAY.So even though i always believed in honest..i lied.In time she will understand more and she will figure things out without asking but i will tell her the truth in time.I think with death many find that issue hard to be 100% honest at a young age anyway..Shes nearly six.



Shes still trying to understand that one day shes going to be living and working without mommy being there to make her dinner and do her hair lol..its so cute but in time as she grows,it will all make more sense to her and thats what i want not to be blunt and completely honest and have her worry at an age were she cant fully comprehend what shes being told.

[deleted account]

Just for the record, my brother was released almost immediately because it was a misunderstanding. Sorta. lmao. It's not funny....I shouldn't laugh!

Riana - I have let it go and I didn't even really offer my advice because she didn't ask for it BUT my mom was really upset by it and she had a conversation with my SIL just explaining how she felt etc. which is when my SIL and brother basically told her to butt out and they'll parent their children the way they deem fit. That's totally fine BUT that's my niece and even more importantly it's my mom's first granddaughter and I think it was hard for my mom to watch the expression on Madison's face.....you could tell she didn't believe the explanation that my SIL gave her and I'm sure she has questions but my brother and SIL refuse to explain things properly. She's 7, not 3....she's smart and I just pray that she can get past her parents lying to her because I guarantee she knows they lied and just wants someone to talk to about it. It really is a shame.

Anyhow, rambling again!

Riana - posted on 08/06/2010

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Wow! First subject we have all agreed on :-)

I'm also for honesty, my kids have a great book about telling lies, it expains how if something is a game like saying veggies will turn you into superman, it is clearly a game and not a lie. If you tell a lie not knowing the truth like saying that is my bag when you have mistaken someone else bag for yours then it is no a lie its a mistake. If you keep a secret for a surprise for someone then it is not a lie it's a surprise. But when you say somthing that you know is not true because you do not want the other person to know the truth - then it is a lie. This was clearly a lie. However it is not your child, I would give the mom advise but then let it go.

I had a similar problem with my family in law, though not as serious. I was 3 months pregnant with Annika on my wedding day, I have no hang ups about it. I did not plan on falling pregnant at the time but it's the best thing that ever happend to me and I would not have it any other way. But it was harder on my family in law and my SIL refused to tell her kids that I was pregnant. We were nabours at the time so I saw the kids (4,7) everyday and love them almost like my own. I would have love sharing my pregnancy with them letting them feel the baby move and telling them how much I love the little person and their uncle. I think it is naive of the mom to think the will not figure it out eventually, they certainly have by now (16 and 18), and all that simply to avoid a few silly questions ? But it is not my children so I respected her views, by the time I was as big as a hippo I guess she told them or they guessed LOL

I always try to tell the truth, I think even when on the spot if you can't come up with a suitable reply either say "I not sure, I will find out and let you know" or if it is somthing they should not be concearned about simply say "this does not concern us/you" thats still an honest answer.

Meghan - posted on 08/05/2010

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I don't belive in keeping my kid in a happy little bubble...but with that being said I also don't want to be TOO blunt and scar him for life. There is a time and place and it totally depends on your child's ability to understand at that time!

*Lisa* - posted on 08/05/2010

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Nah not your family... just you ;) KIDDING!!!! I'd be the biggest hypocrite if I called your family dysfunctional!

[deleted account]

You guys must think my family is totally dysfunctional....lmao! Thanks for the input....I totally agree!

*Lisa* - posted on 08/05/2010

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I also agree she should have told some version of the truth. Maybe not all the details, but at least a simple explanation of why Uncle Steve was being taken by the police. She could have used it to set an example.
My uncle was also jailed for 10 years for international drug trafficking. My little sisters (who were 8, 10 and 12 at the time) now understand that there are big consequences for being involved with drugs. They've even visited him in jail which has given them an even bigger fear of breaking the law. Not to scare them, but just to show them the reality.
I'm unsure about whether little lies are ok too. My cousins grew up hearing all sorts of strange lies from their older sisters and it really messed with their heads. Their mum also always tried to soften the truth with fairy tales and they are now sooo delusional. Have no sense of consequences to their actions.

[deleted account]

I agree, she should go back and tell the girl the truth. I have said the wrong thing to my son in a panicked moment before (twice! :P), but each time, I sat him down later and explained that "I didn't have all the details of the situation when you asked about it the other day. Let me explain what happened." Or "I was not sure how to explain what was going on to you the other day, but now I am prepared to answer any questions you have."



I mean, you know this poor little girl is wondering about it, and I think the more she wonders about it and forms her own conclusions, the less she will trust her mom....

JuLeah - posted on 08/05/2010

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I think the six year old ought to be told the truth. She saw it was Uncle Steve. Her mother asked her to accept that 1) her eyes were lieing to her and she can't trust what she sees, or 2) her mom was lieing to her.

No kid wants to think Mom is telling a lie, so she doubts herself.

Just my opinion

[deleted account]

It all depends on the situation - in serious situations I'd tell the truth in others I may use a white lie =]

Nikki - posted on 08/05/2010

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I agree she probably panicked which is something I would do, although I agree with telling the truth in this kind of situation.

Cathy, you word things so well! :)

[deleted account]

I agree, she probably did panick but she refuses to admit it was the wrong thing to say. Don't get me wrong she's entitled to her opinion but I don't believe that she believes that was the right thing to say but she's being stubborn. I think she needs to properly explain things to my neice. It's also causing much controversy in our family as they're also refusing to bring my nieces to visit because of this argument....so silly!

[deleted account]

She probably panicked and said the first thing that came to her. I say that because after reading your post it took me a good 3 minutes to think of what I would say to my own son in that situation.

[deleted account]

EXACTLY! I would have suggested and did suggest to my SIL, something very similar. " Yes, that's Uncle Steve, he's in trouble and the policeman needs to take him somewhere to talk to him"

I think the reason it bothered me so much is because my niece isn't stupid and by the look on her face you could tell she wasn't satisfied with the answer she was given but my SIL shut the converstation down immediately by changing the subject. My concern is that children, when they're not given a proper explanation to satisfy their curiosity, make up or fill in the blanks themselves. I would hate to think what's going through her head. Poor kid.

[deleted account]

What about in a more serious situation? For instance....my brother got arrested at my parents house (long story) and my 6 year old niece came out of the house and saw the cops taking someone away in handcuffs.

She asked her mom, "Is that uncle Steve? what's happening to him?" and my SIL lied to her and said that it wasn't even my brother....."the police just caught someone who was doing something bad....it's not uncle Steve but it's someone he knows!"

I'm not sure why she said that or if it just slipped out but I completely disagree with how she handled it and it's caused much turmoil in our family! Your thoughts? How would you have handled it?

JuLeah - posted on 08/05/2010

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Ohhhhh Cathy, I ate a carrot once in the hopes of becoming like the Bionic Woman. I didn't happen.

[deleted account]

I lie all the time to my kids.
"Rhys, if you want to grow up to have superpowers like spiderman you have to eat your vegetables"
"No, sorry Mummy hasn't got any money today"
"You ate all the chocolate, it's all gone"

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