Are You Calling Me a Liar?

May 17th, 2010 by Dionna | 39 Comments
Posted in Eclectic Learning, Guest Posts, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, natural parenting, Respond with Sensitivity

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Today I would like to welcome the Grumbles, who has written a guest post on little white parenting lies. She is a full-time working mom of one, Mr. Jude, diving head first into natural parenting. You can normally find the Grumbles at Grumbles & Grunts where she spills her guts about new life with baby, her natural parenting journey, dogs, movies, and occasionally tells crude jokes about lady-parts. I will have a guest post there later this week. So, once you’re done reading the Grumbles thoughts on lying to children, stay tuned to find out my thoughts on the same subject.

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I recently saw the following comments when I was out and about on the interwebs:

“Lying to your kids starts so young!”
“Moms have got to be very tricky.  It’s part of the job description.”

But… is it?  By definition are all moms and dads automatically liars?  Up until the point of motherhood, my upbringing and adulthood have been filled with a focus on honesty and integrity.  My parents were especially diligent in trying to instill an honest soul in me, especially my father.  I don’t understand how just because I am now “a mom,” suddenly honesty means nothing and lying is AOK.

Certainly there are times when a white lie makes parenting easier.  Easier being the keyword.  “No, the grocery store doesn’t sell candy on Tuesdays.” “They don’t let people have ponies inside the city limits.” “Our dog is going to go live on a farm where he can be happy.”  But I think this tactic might do our children an injustice.  They are smarter than we give them credit for and can often see through these shams.  And if they don’t?  Well, some day they will.  And then their trust in your word will be broken.  I know several people who learned when they went off to college that “steak” was not, in fact, liver.  It’s a funny story, right?  But it damages our relationships to learn that someone you trusted has been lying to your face over and over again, even about something silly.

stick meat
this stick looks like meat.  but i won’t tell you it’s steak. promise.

I keep asking myself- is this the behavior I want to model for my child?  That it’s ok for MOM to lie to you when she wants to, but you must always tell mom the truth?  It sets an unrealistic double standard and erodes children’s trust in their caregivers.

Now I’m not saying it’ll never happen; that’s just unrealistic.  In my own time I’m sure I will be just a guilty of the smidge here and the white lie there.  Because sometimes the truth in situations is ugly and you want to protect your kids from reality.  And sometimes you’re just tired and frustrated and in a hurry.  Guilty as charged.  But I want to rail against the assumed idea that all moms automatically lie, that it’s part of the job description and should be accepted as a fact.  I don’t want to be rolled into that group.  I don’t want to feel like I’ve betrayed my own upbringing.  How can I expect my son to grow up an honest person when I am not honest with him?

atmospheric
sorry kid, not sure i want to lie to you.  even in your convict shirt.

How do you feel about parents lying to their kids: is it a fact of life?  Part of the job description?  Something you’d like to avoid?  How do you preserve your delicate connection with your child’s trust?

39 Responses to:
"Are You Calling Me a Liar?"

  1. Bradshaw   annabelle151

    So, I don’t have kids, but as one of thegrumbles friends, I’m commenting, and I think she may be on to something. I’ve always heard the “do as I say, not as I do” and when I have kids, I don’t want that to be the case. I expect honesty out of everyone around me. It would be disrespectful of me to be dishonest to someone else, including, my thought would be ESPECIALLY, my kid. They already trust so fully, without question, why lie to them and put that little seed of doubt in their heads? Maybe things will change when that kid eventually makes itself known, but somehow I doubt it.

  2. Brooke   brookeje

    I strongly disagree with lying as a substantive part of parenting. I think you’re right that sometimes it’s going to happen. But making it a part of your parenting toolkit is a disservice to our kids, in my opinion. For example, I came across this article while pumping at work: http://www.childrenshealthmag.com/parents/10_Lies_every_parent_should_tell.php. I was appalled! And so I rewrote the entire article in the comments section. I think lying cheapens relationships, and that goes for our relationships with our children, too. I will admit, though, that my daughter is only 13 months old, so I’ve not been put to the test in many ways. I guess we’ll see if I can uphold my end of the honesty bargain as she gets older.

  3. the Grumbles   thegrumbles

    Brooke- I feel very much the same way. Since my son is so young I haven’t been tested on this issue yet so I hope my goals can stand up as parenting gets more mentally challenging.

  4. Penelope   proserose

    This is an excellent topic for discussion. The Grumbles brings up many good points, the best of which is: “How can I expect my son to grow up an honest person when I am not honest with him?”

    This statement should ring true for all parents. Those kids are smarter when we give them credit for–they pay attention, they notice things we think they’re not aware of and honesty and trust are values to be practiced consistently.

    Great post!

  5. Mama Lenc

    We have a 2 and half year old li’l man and now that he’s comprehending what we say to him we’ve made a concerted effort not to lie to him. From watching my niece and nephew grow up I’ve seen first hand how it can warp li’l minds. I know this may seem silly but from the moment they started eating real, solid food their parents have referred to EVERY meat as chicken. And now they won’t try anything that isn’t actually chicken (b/c they’re now smart enough to know that meatloaf is not, in fact, chicken). I’m not sure why my sister and her ex-husband started this b/c when we were growing up we had to eat what my mom made (or nothing at all) and her ex is a chef.
    Don’t get me wrong…our li’l man definitely eats chicken nuggets but when we sit down to eat lasagna or tacos or MEATLOAF we don’t refer to it as chicken. We want him to experience different tastes and find out on his own if he doesn’t like something. Perfect example: the other night I made enchiladas and I had sour cream on mine. He thought it was ice cream (which we never told him it was and we didn’t want to deter him so we encouraged him to try it). He stuck his finger in it, tried it and immediately decided he didn’t care for that taste but we were happy that he at least tried it.
    To sum it up…I don’t particularly dig lying to the wee ones if it can be helped.

  6. Mo

    This is very intresting and now I am thinking about the “little white lies” I tell to my 5 year old daughter. It’s true that kids are samrter then we give them credit for being< do they know we re lying?I do not like telling lies but sometimes it comes with being a mom.

  7. Amy @ RenderMeMama   RenderMeMama

    I totally agree. Not so much from a broken trust front but more from a facts of life front. Sometimes the answer is just NO. Sometimes the answer isn’t one kids want to hear. Does that mean we should lie to them or should we help them grow up understanding that sometimes thing just ARE the way they ARE. “No, you can’t have candy today because it costs too much money.”. “Doggie is very sick/ driving mommy crazy/ needs room to run. So, _____ is whats going to happen.” Make sense??

    Bravo on the post and stay determined!

  8. Alicia   tattooedgal

    I don’t think we need to lie to our children. My daughter is 3.5 and I have yet to use little white lies like “this store doesn’t sell toys.” explaining things simply goes a long way. “we don’t have time today to look at the toys at this store, but we can look at toys at another store this weekend if you like.” And yes, it works with a 3.5 year old. There is the occasional whine and upset, but she gets we can’t always do what she wants.

    The most important thing when using this tactic is follow through. Now that you’ve explained it can happen this weekend instead, it does really need to happen. Otherwise you truth has now become a lie.

    Yep, motherhood is a lot of work.

  9. Josey   josephinejulia

    The Golden Rule (Treat others as you would like to be treated)is so important… I mean, honesty is the best policy, and none of us like being lied to, so why would we ever lie to our children?? Great post.

  10. Sarah

    I really do hope that Parents article was a joke – but even if it was, that is not funny. There are way too many parents who might read that and actually do what they suggest. Do I want my children to do as they’re told? Well yes, and no. DO I want my children to ahve a clean room? Absolutely I hate messes. But seriously how could it help anyone if they’re afraid to play, or sleep in their room? I liked your response Brooke – but I do feel it’s okay to argue in front of kids – it’s healthy to disagree, and it presents a warped view of a relationship if kids never learn how to disagree respectfully and effectively. Though I agree yelling shouldn’t happen.

    I find that now that the girls are older there is less temptation to lie to them, they are old enough to understand so many concepts and to make their own choices. They want to do something I don’t want to do. I can tell them I don’t want to and why. But we can also discuss and sometimes they make a valid enough point and we go after all. Today we are driving an hour into the city to go swimming. I’d rather not drive around all day. But they girls had good reason to go, and I didn’t have a good reason not to. SIgh. Logic sucks sometimes. lol

    I’m sure there have been some lies I’ve told – the one that comes to mind the most is my little night nursing lie. Agatha was waking up every hour all night long. It was habit. She wasn’t nursing, just nuzzling, but it was enough to prevent me from sleeping. I am a very grumpy mommy when sleepy. I tried talking I tried refusing saying I was tired. Nothing was working. If anythign she nursed more. But then after her bedtime feed I put some bandaids on and told her they were owie. She slept until 3!! I was so excited. Now most nights she does sleep. and I am happier, she is happier and she nurses in the daytime instead of the night. It was a lie, but honestly we both got the result we wanted so I have a tough time saying it was wrong. But she was 19 mos old and there is no way I’d have done that if she were younger. But by then I knew she really didn’t need to eat that often. It’s rationalizing, I know, but I get regular sleep most nights and were happier with each other. Thoughts?

    I want my children to respect me, but I know that I couldn’t respect someone who manipulated the truth to get me to do what they wanted, so I try to be truthful with them. Just as I try to be gentle and respectful. I’m a WIP, but I’m learning. I can see that I have happy girls who try hard to express themselves so I must be doing something right.

  11. I’m not a parent yet, but I think I agree with you….

    But what about Santa Claus? And the Easter Bunny? Will you tell Jude the truth about these things? What happens when he comes home from school talking about how Santa came to the other kids’ houses? I have a while before I have to decide this, and I’m torn. I remember them being magical when I was little… but I also remember feeling hurt when I was told the truth. And shouldn’t we teach our kids what these holidays are really about?

  12. Biscuit   _Biscuit_

    I agree, I’m a painfully honest person and the worst things that have ever happened to me in life have been the result of someone else’s dishonesty. Little white lies, used sparingly, are unavoidable at times as I think there are just some things kids are not READY to know about. So long as it is explained down the road when their little brains are mature enough to handle it I think it’s ok to “bend” the truth, keeping as close to it as you can.

    Good topic!

  13. Heather   xakana

    I was deeply, deeply hurt and offended by childhood “white lies” once I realized what they were. I have deep trust issues now and I strive to not lie to my children. Even when I joke, I tell her it’s just a joke (as my family and DH’s family are all deeply sarcastic). But I also let her decide what games we play (tooth fairy, santa, etc.–I’ve told her they aren’t real and she made it clear that she still wants to play tooth fairy at least, lol), so I don’t take the “fun” away, either.

  14. the Grumbles   thegrumbles

    Sarah, I’m not sure how we’re going to deal with those issues yet. I’ll have to sit down with the Mr. and see how he feels about it. I grew up with the Santa and Easter Bunny traditions and enjoyed them, but I also remember finding my presents “from Santa” in the attic one year pre-Christmas and how upset I felt.

    There was definitely a certain magic to Santa, hopefully we can find a way to walk that tightrope, though also we are not particularly religious so that may influence those choices too.

  15. the Grumbles   thegrumbles

    @ other Sarah & Brooke- that article was heinous! Even as a “joke” I think commentary like that is completely uncalled for. Not funny, alarming.

  16. Dionna   CodeNameMama

    Awesome post – thank you, the Grumbles, for swapping guest posts with me.

    Brooke – that article is awful!

    I completely agree with posters re: the do unto others sentiment. That is the basis for much of our parenting.

    Sarah W – I blogged about Santa awhile ago (http://codenamemama.com/2009/12/09/ho-ho-ho-how-do-you-sant/). That was a pretty easy decision for us, and not only based on the white lie concept.

  17. Good post, Grumbles. I totally agree with Alicia. Explaining things does go a long way. If I explain something to Everett now, chances are he remembers it later and I can build upon that knowledge to further explain things later as he grows and is able to understand even more.

    I would be doing my son an injustice to assume he can’t understand or handle the truth or just don’t want to go into explaining it.

  18. Tamara Morales   PlacentaMom

    As a mother of two little girls my husband and I decided early on to be truthful with our children no matter what the question, inquiry, or topic at hand. We feel that we would rather they hear the truth from us then misinformation & “white lies” from someone else that could be detrimental in some way. Also, we want them to know that they can be truthful with us.

    When our four year old recently asked how baby cows were made we explained that they are made the same way her baby sister was…which we were truthful in explaining including information about pregnancy, labor, and childbirth (we even watched birthing videos on youtube and she would cheer when the baby was born). All the information we give them is specific to their understanding and developmental level and we use books and videos to help us explain in an appropriate manner for them. When her little friend was told that an angel brought her sibling down from heaven my daughter stood her ground and insisted that they did not come that way, but from “momma’s tummy” and that they did not come out “wearing bows”.

    Those sort of “white lies” actually frustrate me because I am sad that they are not respecting their child’s intelligence. Little ones are smart and want smart answers and I think adults should respect that. When our oldest eats poorly we do not make up stories about how eating her green beans will make her grow big and strong, we just explain that she needs to eat healthy to stay healthy, especially since she has a blood condition that requires frequent blood tests. We explain that the better she eats the better her blood and fewer tests, which has been the case and the truth. We can tell by the look in her eyes that she appreciates this and it makes her mental map on learning about life easier to thread.

    However, we do give “white lies” when it comes to Santa and the Easter Bunny because we want then to enjoy the magic of it all. But, will not hide the truth when they start to question it. This in fact was difficult for me even because I felt it was hypocritical, but I guess they magic of the holidays outweighed the cons of these types of “lies”.

  19. Junket   junketjuice

    This hit home for me. My mom and I may not have the greatest relationship in the world, but I can honestly say that she has never lied to me. Ever. She may not have told me things until I was old enough to understand them but she NEVER lied. We had a family incident a few years ago where I felt like I had been lied to by my family and I took it especially hard because I thought it broke my mom’s track record of honesty. In the end, she didn’t really lie to me but she withheld things from me to protect me. I was crushed because I really liked knowing that I could trust her. I still feel like I can. She saw how hurt I was at the age of 35 to think she had lied that she overcompensates now. I would say always go with honesty.

  20. Great post! Honesty, authenticity, and integrity are very important to me.

  21. Janet

    No lying here from anyone about anything. We’ve told them the truth about birth, death, and everything in between as they’ve asked for information and in ways which they could (mostly) comprehend. Kids will continue to ask questions as they grow and I see it as part of my job in their lives to make sure they have a grounding in reality. There are no cabbage patches or storks here, no dogs going to the farm, no Santa, no Easter Bunny. There is love, reality, truth, beautiful fantasy they construct, “Look mama the stars are the moon’s children!” “Look mama, my dolly is having a breastfeed with me, she loves booby!” “Mummy I’m a Tyrannosaurus Rex chasing a plant eater for my lunch growl!!” and we think that life has enough wonder without us constructing some fairytale adult version deemed palatable for children.

    We pretend that stuff is for the children but really it’s for us. Every time we gloss over how babies are made, what happens when people die, what will happen when the pets get old, what we’re really saying is “I haven’t come to grips with these normal parts of life myself so I’m going to maintain my own inability to live an adult life by screwing with your capacity to do that too.” And most of us do it unconsciously, without realising what traps we lay for our children because….? Because our parents lied to us and we missed out on a foundation of reality as children too.

  22. Monty

    Who ever wrote that, STEAK is a cut of meat usually beef, so in turn LIVER is a cut of meat so there was not a lie, it is steak. We percieve steak as what we have been served for years the muscle of the cow.
    Chicken fried steak is beef not chicken. any way you get the idea.

  23. Chrissy

    Great blog!!!! I have always strive to be honest with my children. I don’t do white lies at all including santa, easter bunny or the tooth fairy. This has caused many issues with other family members and confusion with the truth for my step son. But if I expect my children to grow into teenagers and adults that will come to me with their questions and expect honest answers I don’t believe breaking their trust when they are young is going to achieve this goal.

    The link for the shocking article is down I hope to read it soon.

  24. Jon

    Dude, if we are going by that logic (semantics) liver is not a cut of meat but rather an organ. so its still a lie. either way it was a willful mis-representation of one thing for another.

  25. Sarah

    I agree liver is not steak – by any stretch of the imagination. lol

    As for Santa etc we have a special way to present them. We believe in Jesus. We can never see him, we can never talk to him like we talk to another person. Yet Jesus is real. Santa claus is real. He is a character in a book, in many different stories, in many different cultures, we’ve seen him in movies and we’ve seen a person dressed up like him at the mall. We present it the same way. The present isn’t really from Santa, but it represents Santa. They can understand the idea. Santa will always be real, and the magic will not die a horrible painful death when the neighbour boy tells you he isn’t really real.

    I’m not sure about the tooth fairy myself, but I think it depends on what a families own reality is. We have dragons over quite often, also goblins, worgs, basically we enjoy the wonderful worlds we can create in our own heads. Personally there is still a part of me that believes those fairy worlds and creatures just might exist somewhere – I never want my children to loose that sense of possibility. I think I’d do them a greater disservice if I took that away from them.

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