“It’s Just a Little White Lie!”

Purposeful Parent Tip: Strive to tell the truth to your children at all times. They know when you’re lying anyway!

“Is that left-over macaroni and cheese?,” my son asks. “No,” I say, with my fingers crossed behind my back. Ok…you caught me. I lied.  You’re likely saying, “But Jennifer – you’re the Purposeful Parent! How can you lie to your children?”

I’m purposeful, not perfect!

There are times when I stretch the truth just a tad to my kids. If I told my son that the mac-n-cheese was from two days earlier, he wouldn’t eat it.  My son, well, actually both of my kids, hate leftovers. So you can see my dilemma. If I tell the truth, I’ll likely have to throw out half of the food I cook. But if I wiggle the truth just a little bit, then I’ve got dinner on the table. And you all know how much I “love” cooking dinner!

If I had to analyze all of the lies I’ve told my kids, I’d say 99% of them are about food. You already know the leftover lie, but here are a few others:

  • “Of course it’s cucumbers!” (zucchini)
  • “It’s chicken” (It was pork.)
  • “It’s just a new brand.” (Disguising whole wheat pasta.)

Not horrible, right? These little “vocal variations” got my kids to eat a new vegetable, try a new meat, and eat healthier pasta. So sue me!

It’s likely everyone tells a little lie to their children now and then. It is not done with the intention to deceive or be harmful. (Is it really so horrible that my children eat leftovers and don’t know it?) These are minor torts if you will along the parenting journey.

Think about it. Your child sees you sad or upset and asks, “Are you ok, Mom?” You answer, “Of course.”  Not quite the truth, but rather than burden your child with what’s ailing you, you utter a little white lie to protect them, and maybe prevent you from bursting into tears.

I’m not an advocate of telling outright lies to children or of breaking promises. These set up an air of deceit and mistrust in your relationship – one where your children will end up not believing anything you say (remember The Boy Who Cried Wolf?). Think…”Yes, we’re leaving in 20 minutes,” and it’s 2 hours later. Or, “We’ll go for ice cream after dinner,” and you don’t.

Continually telling your children lies or making promises you can’t keep breaks a bond that’s critical between parent and child. We are their first and best teachers and if they can’t trust us, who can they trust?

And here’s the kicker. Kids know when you are lying to them. It’s in their DNA to spot a liar from a mile away. Their instincts are right on when it comes to sizing up adults, but we think that because they are kids, that they can’t distinguish these qualities. Guess what? We’re wrong.

Pay attention when your child does not want to hug your favorite uncle or when they are skittish around someone. They sense something and instead of pushing them towards these people, respect that they have their reasons for not wanting to be near them. Never force your child to hug or kiss someone when they don’t want to. This teaches them that others have more power than they do over their own bodies. (That’s a post for another time.)

So, while I strive to always tell the truth to my kids, you can bet your bottom dollar that the pasta from Monday night will make another appearance on Wednesday and of course, it will be freshly made!

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