One thing I vowed never to do as a parent – and probably the only parenting vow I’ve been able to stick to – is to never lie to my child.
Parents lie to their kids all the time to protect them or shield them from ugly realities or even to make life more fun for them.
My parents mostly lied to us to scare the living crap out of us; or maybe for their own amusement. Fear of punishment from them apparently wasn’t enough of a deterrent for us. No. They made up elaborate stories to reinforce their rules.
For instance, when I first started school, part of my route home was a dirt path along the side of the lake in back of another farmer’s field. This seemed like a fun place to me – especially the little old bridge I had to cross. So, naturally, I would dawdle along this path.
As most kids find out, dawdling is a cardinal sin. My parents soon figured out why it was taking me so long to get home. Coincidentally, that very evening, my dad “read” me an article from the newspaper that said there was a mad killer loose in the area. The mad killer was especially fond of slicing young children to bits. And — they were pretty sure he was living under the bridge in that farmer’s field!
The next day I couldn’t bring myself to go anywhere near that bridge and instead of going to school, I just spent the day on the beach. At least, I thought I’d spent the day on the beach. Really, I just futzed around for a while, ate my lunch, got bored and went home when I figured it must be the end of the day. It turned out be be barely mid-morning.
My mum walked me to school. She had to drag me, kicking and screaming, across that bridge. She tried to tell me if I walked over it really fast there was no way the mad killer could get me. I didn’t believe her.
When I didn’t come home after school by late afternoon that day, my mum had to come out and find me. I was cowering in the field. I wouldn’t cross the bridge. Who would? No one in their right mind, that who.
That night, my mum and dad tried to pretend that there was an article in the paper that said they’d caught the mad killer, so the bridge was safe for kids again. So I could go to school tomorrow by myself. “Hurrah!” the parents rejoiced.
But that seemed a little too convenient to me and I didn’t believe them.
Then they tried yelling at me. But that didn’t change my mind either.
I offered to take the longer route to school, which meant an extra 10-minute bike ride, all of which was along a road.
They said I was being ridiculous.
I said I didn’t care and that I was never crossing that bridge again.
I ended up taking the longer route.
There was a lot of other stuff like this they lied to me about. Most of it worked out better for them that this example. Their stories seemed to make me behave and do what they wanted me to do. There were stories that made me eat the things they wanted me to eat. There were stories that made me go to bed when they thought I needed to go to bed. Most of these lies didn’t have such overtly dramatic consequences as the mad killer under the bridge story – but a lot of them freaked me out nevertheless.
I think kids process information a lot differently that we do. Parents think they’re telling their kids a harmless fib in order to keep them safe or innocent, but by the time that fib has worked its way through a little person’s mysterious brain, you never know what that mysterious little brain is going to create out of that harmless adult fib.
During the average childhood, a parent will tell their child about 3000 “white lies”, according to a UK study.
What do you, or have you, lied to your kids about? Did the lie(s) have any interesting consequences?
What about your parents? Did they lie to you?
Common Parenting Lies
- Santa/Tooth Fairy/Easter Bunny
- Rover is living on a farm now
- Grandma is living on a farm with Rover
- You can be anything you want to be
- You’re beautiful/smart/talented/the best
- Looks don’t matter; it’s what’s on the inside that counts
- Sitting too close to the TV will make you blind
- Mummy and Daddy were playing grown-up wrestling
- It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, its how you play the game
- We’ll see
- Maybe later
- If you keep playing with that thing, it’s going to fall off