Why I lie to my kids

I can just hear the inner monologue now…WHAT?! She lies to her kids?! What kind of parent does that?!

Um, just about every parent I know or have known.

Just the other morning, I dropped my son off in his class at church and he turned and said, “When will you be back?” “In just a few minutes” I said. (LIE!)

As his big brown eyes looked up at me, his little voice said, “What time is it now?”

“Almost 9 o’clock.” I responded.

“And what time will you be back?” he asked.

(By this time the line to check in was growing and our conversation had intrigued several who were waiting.)

“A little after 10:00 Darling. It won’t be long.” I said.

“That’s more than a few minutes!” he exclaimed.

Not knowing what else to say, or how to escape the trap in which I had just been caught, I pulled him to the side and knelt down so that we were eye level.

As my 5 yr. old pulled on my arm saying, “Let’s GO mommy! I wanna go to my class!” I knew I couldn’t miss this opportunity to keep it real with my youngest.

“You’re right, son.” I said.
“It’s actually going to be about 75 minutes.”

“Oh. Okay.” he said. And went running back into his classroom.

I was still kneeling on the floor when I looked up to see pity in the parental gazes coming from my onlookers. “It’s not as if YOU are always honest with YOUR children?!” I thought to myself in a very loud thinking voice. You know the one.

So, I head upstairs with my 5 yr old to drop him off at his class, still a little bewildered by the fact that my 3 yr old just called me out.

As I was waiting in line, a first time visitor was being escorted to the front so that she was able to drop off her child and tell them good-bye.

He runs into the classroom and I hear her say, “BY HONEY! Mommy will be back in just one minute!” (LIE!) I was thinking to myself, that kid will be lying on a shrink’s sofa one day explaining how it all started when his mother said she would be back in one minute and did not return for over an hour.

Photo Credit Freelance Folder
A little dramatic, I know! But I wanted to make her just as bad as I was. I wanted her to be a liar too!

Here’s the deal…this may seem like such a small thing to you. And for those of you still reading, hopefully this will make some sense.

It is a meaningless comment/exaggeration of the truth. UNTIL your 3 yr old calls you out on it!

It started a process of personal inventory. Which if you have ever done this, it is no small feat.

Instead of pointing at the lady in front of me and taking her inventory, which I knew nothing about, mind you, I was forced to look at myself.

What other things do I lie about?

Some of you will not have to be so introspective. For me, my sanity not only relies on this kind of honesty, it requires it.

Photograph : http://www.risesmart.com

I was a liar for a long time, so when I catch myself telling anything that even appears to be a lie, it scares me a little. If it looks like a lie, smells like a lie and sounds like a lie, well, it’s a lie.

Does this mean I’m going to tell my children all of the ridiculous things I did and poor decisions made while growing up. No. Does it mean that I will be one of those parents who says, “I never actually inhaled.” No. I don’t want to be that either.

SO, there is a fine line between truth and TMI.

What is it though?

No…really…I’m asking you…WHAT IS IT?!

I don’t know! I believe it depends on the person, the extent of the information and the age of the child.

Am I justifying my actions? Probably. I tend to do that when I want to feel okay about doing something that I’m not sure is okay to do.

Many studies have been done on how children develop and the way their minds work. It is said that a child 6 yrs or younger does not have the ability to reason. Hence the phrase, “7 is the Age of Reason.”

There is a great article titled “The Truth About Lying” and in it, the author says,
From about age 4 on, children lie for many of the same reasons adults do: to avoid punishment, to gain an advantage, to protect against an unwanted consequence, and even to boost self-esteem. Youngsters, like adults, sometimes lie to demonstrate power, to maintain privacy, or to protect a friend. When a child lies, she is essentially trying to change a situation, to reconstruct things the way she wants them to be. (Hmmm, at times I still do this.) There is a developmental progression to lying.

Helping your child develop morality and responsibility for his actions over the long haul is the goal…
Model the behavior you expect to see in your child. (
I thought I was doing that?!) This sounds obvious (YES, it does!), but it involves monitoring when and how you lie — not an easy task (NO, it isn’t!). If we want to foster a trusting, self-regulating child who cares about his own welfare and that of others, we have to do it the hard way: by being trusting, self-regulating, and respectful adults.” (Ouch!)

Why then, you ask, did I take the time to reason with my 3 yr old? Well, because I think he deserves to know the difference between a few minutes and 75.

All children are different. Mine was content hearing an explanation.
Do I recommend this when he is in mid tantrum. Nooooooooooooooooooooo. But when he is calmly asking for an explanation, I’m going to give him one, whether an “expert” tells me he understands or not.

So, I leave you with no answers today. Only questions.

What are the lies you’re telling your kids and where’s the line?

Just to make you feel better and not leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth and that befuddled look on your face. To get us started, here are a few of the lies that I can remember telling my kids in the last week (give or take a few days). 

What I said:
Play land is closed today (at McDonald’s)
What I meant:
There is no way you are going to play in there! Ew. I’m sure they don’t crawl through all of those tunnels and clean it once a week. I wouldn’t.

What I said:
Mommy is going to take a break and have some quiet time for a few minutes.
What I meant:
Mommy is going to go upstairs, close the door, take some deep breaths while listening to songs on Pandora, none of which will have rhymes about counting or the alphabet.

What I said:
We will go outside in 10 minutes.
What I meant:
When I finish what I am doing, then we will go outside. I’m not sure how long it will take.

What I said:
Mommy is going to run an errand. It will only take a minute.
What I meant:
You’re going to stay here with daddy while I get in daddy’s car (instead of the minivan), roll down the windows, open the sunroof, turn up the music and sing at the top of my lungs while driving around the neighborhood.

What I said:
No honey, this is special mommy chocolate. Boys don’t eat this kind of chocolate. It’s only for girls.
What I meant:
I don’t want to share this chocolate with you. I made a special trip to Whole Foods to buy the good stuff (translation: 70% cacao and imported) and you don’t know the difference between this and a Hershey bar. Besides, I have given up alcohol, so I should not have to share my chocolate.

What I said:
It’s bedtime!
What I meant:
It’s been a really long day and you didn’t take a nap. I know it’s an hour early, but since it’s getting dark earlier, you don’t know whether it’s bedtime or not and I want some “me time”.

Now, do you feel better about yourself? You should. I have a lot of work to do! No wonder my children have no concept of time!

2 thoughts on “Why I lie to my kids

  1. Thank you friend. You are too good to me and give me waaaaaaay too much credit. I wondered if you were reading the blog. Thanks for commenting. Let's talk soon!

  2. I love the way you write about parenting. Truly. And the fact that you are an amazing mom raising stellar human beings? Proof your technique is working. ❤

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