When describing my parenting style, I could use words like 'strict', 'disciplinarian', 'take charge', 'consistent', 'authoritarian', 'tough', 'no-nonsense', 'firm'....except that I would be lying. If I had to describe my parenting style, words like 'wussy', 'pushover', 'total softy' would be more appropriate. I aspire to the former, I default to the latter. So take this from where it comes.
I want to know from you, is it ok to lie to your children?
Big lies, hurtful lies, horrible lies and dangerous lies are wrong. I think most of us will agree. But I am talking about small lies, 'white' lies, 'innocent' lies..... lies that you tell your children because it is easier (on you), because it is faster / simpler / better for them.
For example, your five year old remembers at five to 5 that you said you would buy her a new colouring-in book today. You realize that DAMN! you did promise to get her a new colouring in book today but quite honestly, you would rather have a red hot poker shoved up your bum than gather all three kids, lock all the doors, take off your sweatpants and put on decent clothes and some shoes, wave away the wine breath and drive to the shops to get the promised colouring in book.
Do you tell a little white lie and say "oh rats! The shop has already closed, we will go tomorrow morning first thing and get the colouring-in book" (knowing full well that is not going to go down well with your five year old for whom tomorrow might as well be SEVENTEEN MONTHS AWAY but it will at least mean you don't have to leave the house), or do you face up to the truth and say "sorry my darling, mommy forgot to go today. We will go tomorrow" (knowing full well your five year old will say I DONT WANT TO WAIT UNTIL TOMORROW, YOU PROMISED I COULD GET IT TODAY! I WANT TO GO NOW!)
I could name numerous examples. But the bottom line is, is it ok to take the easy option by telling a small white lie (the shop is closed. there are no more cookies left. yes, it really is bedtime already), or should we be facing the music by telling the truth.
I am a terrible liar. I hate lies and I lie badly. It is not for any particularly moral or righteous reason, but mostly because I suck at deceit and because having to continue with the pretence makes me anxious. But in the case of my children, I feel that I have a trust relationship with them and by lying, I am somehow abusing that trust.
Marko has no such qualms. He will quite happily say "oh sorry guys, the shop is already closed, we will go tomorrow". And that is it. Not too much fuss or drama (maybe a small stomp of the foot or whine, but mostly just acceptance and moving on). With me, I feel their little eyes burning into my soul with the unspoken question "mother, are you telling the truth or are you taking advantage of the trust we place in you to protect us and look after our best interests? Can we trust you with this, dear mother? Is that shop really closed or are you bullshitting us? IF YOU CAN LIE ABOUT THIS, WHAT DOES IT MEAN ABOUT ANYTHING YOU EVER TELL US IN FUTURE???"
See. I have issues.
And yet, maybe I am hypocritical. I tell the kids that Father Christmas exists and so does the Tooth Fairy who uses the teeth to build her castle. But, to be honest, even that doesn't sit too comfortably with me. I will carry on with the fantasy for as long as they want to, but when they ask me if it is really true, I am going to tell them the truth.
Lies make me anxious. I would far rather tell the truth and deal with the consequences now than to delay the pain and risk the disappointment and hurt of being found out.
I am laying it on a bit thick, I obviously understand the need to tell some lies. There are lies that protect us from hurt and they are very necessary. This post is not about those lies, but instead about the lies we tell our kids because they are easier to deal with than dealing with the truth. The small white lies about there being no cookies left or the shop being closed.
Are those lies ok? What do you think?
I am going to ask my friend-in-the-computer Moxie to do a blog post about it on her blog Ask Moxie. As soon as it is up, I will add the link.
Also, for the shy types - here is a poll: