Would you lie to your child?

Katherine - posted on 03/29/2012 ( 7 moms have responded )




Re-post from Strollerderby

I recently told my child if she ate her broccoli it would make her smart and beautiful. The minute the words fell out of my mouth, I was overcome with guilt and anger at myself for stooping to an outright lie to get her to eat some green food. In one sentence, I threw out patience, thoughtful communication and honesty so I could have an easy time of things.

I spent countless days wondering if this was okay or not. On the one hand, I treat my children with respect and try to show them how to live their lives honestly. On the other hand, here I was stooping to a lie—innocent or not—in order to get her to comply with my wishes. While relating the incident to a friend, she quickly calmed me down and said, “Relax. It’s not lying. It’s parenting!”

But I wonder, is that really true? It’s commonly said that we all tell lies, but do we? Are there really degrees of lies — white lies, little lies, huge untruths— or is a lie, just simply, a lie? Perhaps the better questions are: what exactly is a lie and when is it ever okay to tell one? If we were to get technical with it, a lot of us tell little ones everyday: “Don’t swallow your gum or it will stay there forever.” “Santa Claus knows. He knows.”

When I was honest with myself and got down to the nitty-gritty of it, I realized that I indulge in quite a few “non-truths” in order to gain compliance around the house. Some of my more creative gems include placing the Elf on a Shelf outside my eldest daughter’s room so he can report to Santa Claus daily on the status of her room’s cleanliness, telling my youngest daughter that princesses LOVE to poop in the potty (ok, this one is likely not a lie), and telling both kids that the toy monster will eat all the toys that are left on the floor after bedtime.

As I began to talk to more and more moms about this, I realized I wasn’t alone — both in telling “little lies” and in wanting to tell the truth — the honest truth.

My friend Kimberly uses a white lie to get her two children to brush their teeth regularly. While she admits it’s not exactly the truth, she acknowledges it’s for their own good.

More on

kids and lying:

Is honesty always the best policy?

— Meghan Gesswein

Being a mom has made me a better liar

— Sierra Black

Food fibs: Lies we tell our kids

— Sandy Maple

“Getting the kids to brush their teeth and understand the importance of good brushing habits has always been a battle in our home,” she told me. When the dentist decided to describe cavities to my kids as ‘sugar bugs,’ I took this ‘white lie’ and ran with it. Now, my children are convinced that they have bugs in their mouths that get bigger every time they eat sugar. I explained that toothpaste is the only thing that makes the ‘sugar bugs’ shrink, and if you don't shrink the bugs twice per day, they get big enough to eat your teeth. Not true, but it serves its purpose for the time being.”

Kim says that while it’s technically lying, it’s what’s best for her kids right now. “I can't say that I support lying to children, but in some situations, I have to adopt a ‘no harm, no foul’ policy — like cavities and sugar bugs,” she said.

Meanwhile, my friend Kristine has decided upon a different approach with her young son: honesty, even when it’s tough. “Lying to comply with my wishes? I don't do that. Sometimes it would be easier if I did, but I don’t. I can't start off our relationship like that.”

“It is one of my ‘mommy fears’ that he will not trust me or that he'll think he can get more accurate information from someone else. So, I have made it a point to be very honest with him from the beginning.” Kristine hopes that one day this will pay off when it counts. “Someday, when he and his buddies do want to know the truth about something, like drugs or girls or something pretty heavy… they will know they will get the truth from me.”

But even she acknowledged that there are times when exaggerating the truth for the benefit of the child could be okay. “Let’s say a child has a fear or insecurity. You need to do your best, as a parent, to make your child feel secure — bottom line. That way he can grow up to be an independent, strong person on his own. So, that might mean telling a young child a small ‘exaggerated truth,’ like saying you have an extra safe house and extra strong locks at night if he's afraid.”

While we can all agree that being honest when it counts is the key to having integrity, there are everyday lies which most of us succumb to at some point in our life, even if they’re just exaggerations of the truth. Around here, the toy monster still stands watch over the playroom, but broccoli only gets eaten every now and then. I’m trying to parent with more intention — and that includes weighing the pros and cons of any “lie” I might tell my kids.

While parents may not agree on what is a lie and when it’s appropriate, we do all agree that anything done with our children’s best interest is the right approach. It’s not about lazy parenting or taking the easy road — it’s about doing what feels right for you and your child.

I don't think I have yet. I might.....


Angelina - posted on 04/07/2012




Parents lie to their children all the time,

1) santa clause is real

2) easter bunny is real

3)what Halloween really is about.

4) Any kind of fairy tale bedtime story.

5) Tooth fairy Is real

6) crazy psycho killers only exist in movies

these are the first few off the top of my head and not to offend anyone but depending on your oppinion on religion.... there could be lies in that too. not my oppinion but just saying that it depends. Anyway, depending on the so caltled "lie" its not bad and its usually nothing to feel guilty about. If it can effect your child in a negative manner then dont tell the lie. if its a little white lie, like the first time your child picks their own outfit or your little girl does her make up and looks like a freaky clown, go ahead and tell her she looks beautiful and that she looks like a princess.


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Sharon - posted on 04/10/2012




Yes, we have told little white lies to our children, the most recent was over the weekend. Our children our college age and we do not advocate living together before marriage. However, I kind of let it slip that my hubby and I lived together for a brief period due to the fact that when I was living with his parents before we were married I got exposed to the chicken pox while working as a nurse. His brother, living with his parents also at the time, had severe asthma and could not risk getting the chicken pox so I went and lived with my husband at his condo until we were married. We lead them to believe that my husband went to live with his parent during that time. Although, I would have just explained the circumstances but my husband didn't want them to think it was OK for any reason. Right or wrong, we just left it at that.

[deleted account]

I'll be honest, I skimmed. It's late and I can't sleep, but I can't focus either.

Anyway, yes, I've told J white lies....

I told him once that the colorful marshmallows were "veggie flavored". He still doesn't eat them.

I told him once that bugs crawl on his teeth if he doesn't brush them....which I still kind of thing is sort of true, because bacteria will grow on teeth if you don't brush, but that's not what he pictured and I know it.

I'm sure there are others. I TRY not to, but sometimes they slip out, and sometimes they help. I've never told a big lie that I can think of....Other than the "holiday lies" as I call them.

Stifler's - posted on 04/04/2012




I lie all the time to my kids. "if you eat all this you can have this after your nap" then don't plan on giving it to them.

Jennifer - posted on 04/03/2012




Actually, did she lie? Eating right is a very important step in staying healthy, helps you stay a healthy weight(pretty by society standerds) and studies prove it helps kids learn.........? I mean, honestly, the only reason I don't gorge on cookies, cakes, butter, and fried food is so I'll be pretty and smart and healthy! Maybe the statement she made was simplistic, but it wasn't an outright lie.

I lied to my son once. He was 5, and his cat Teddy Bear had died a few months prior. He didn't want another cat, and had withdrawn from his dog. He kept asking why we had pets if they died. Then a friend had some kittens, and he actually asked for one! I was so happy! We brought it home, and the next day it died. We hadn't had it 24 hours!! I knew they had a look alike at the shelter, so while he was at school, I ran and got it! We had 'Todd' for 11 years. By the time he died, my son was old enough that he understood good times out weigh the heart ache most times. I'm glad I did it!

As a rule, I don't lie. My kids were not even lied to about Santa and the tooth fairy. I gave them gifts, and money for their teeth. It was actually easier for me, cause we had a few very lean Christmas' and I was glad I didn't have to make up a lie about why Santa didn't bring gifts. That isn't to say my kids didn't get into the holiday tales. My daughter LOVES Rudolphe. It just means that sometimes, parents need to weigh the outcome. Sometimes what may 'feel' like a lie is the truth, just in the very simplest form.

I did, eventually, tell my son that Todd was an imposter. He took it fine. He said that the Todd he had for years and years was the REAL Todd. The other kitten was just a gateway to let his heart open up again. He isn't a fan of furry pets anymore, his love is snakes. When he was 16, his first snake died. He was crushed, and cried for days. I was a little worried, but a week after his snake died, he found a breeder and bought another one!

Michelle - posted on 03/29/2012




I guess it depends. Like when one of the ferrets got sick and died a while back, we talked about death and told the kids that he had died (our pets don't go live on a farm). Stuff like the sugar bugs and teeth brushing we conceded to using after a very unsuccessful technical discussion about why we brush our teeth. So it just depends.

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