Oh, those little white lies… you’d think once we become parents, we would do away with fibs altogether, but for many of us that’s not quite the case. We tell our children lying is not okay — and, yet, we lie. Little lies, helpful lies, trying-not-to-be-hurtful lies. Santa — lie. Tooth fairy — lie. I didn’t buy your favourite ice cream because the shops were sold out — lie. My husband jokingly calls it “omitting the truth” which sounds only slightly less blameworthy.
As a mum, the questions I’ve found hardest are no-good-answer ones like: “Will the doctor give me a needle?” or “Is this going to hurt?” But I am truthful about those. Several years ago when my son was hospitalised, I realised there is no way to sugarcoat those situations with half-truths. In order for my kids to trust me — completely — I must be honest…
Most of the time. On the rocky road of parenting, there are a handful of situations where small, harmless truth-twisters might occasionally come in handy. Note I said occasionally… not to be abused or over-used! Otherwise, your kids will catch on and call you on it for sure. Here, times I think it’s okay to bend the truth:
1. You want to nurture her creative spirit. My daughter is in an “experimental” phase when it comes to fashion. She dons an outfit, sashays out like a supermodel, and asks, “How do I look?” Should I be honest and tell her she could end up in Who Weekly‘s Fashion Don’ts page? Of course not! She is unique/creative/expressive, and to me always gorgeous — so go for it, girl!
2. It’s important to respect his privacy. Because I have three kids around the same age (7, 8 and 8), I occasionally bend the truth a teeny bit in order to respect their privacy. One of my sons occasionally needs quiet time away from his brother and sister, which is hard to come by because neither of them needs any quiet time! At all! So I find him a good hiding spot and when questioned by the others as to his whereabouts I tell them I don’t know.
3. You want to prevent sibling power struggles. I have twin boys and on their birth certificates it says they were born at exactly the same time. My husband insisted on it and now I know why. One of our sons is the alpha and always wants to know who was born first so he can tell his brother he’s “older” and use it as leverage. Sibling rivalries are natural, but in this case we told a little lie in order to even the playing field.
4. You don’t want to embarrass your kids. Young kids are happy to discuss just about any topic with anybody. Until they reach an age where they learn to edit, they will talk about their parents’ bathroom habits, family financials, what their mum looks like naked, and soooo much more. As a result, I have withheld certain details from my kids — or adjusted the truth a bit — so it does not get inadvertently spread all over school… or town.
5. It’s important for you and your partner to present a united front. There is often no easy way to answer the popular kid question: What are you and Daddy fighting about? I wish I could say my husband and I have never argued within earshot of our children, but we have. I don’t use the fallback response (“Oh, nothing”), but I’m not always completely candid. Adult conflicts can be confusing for kids and as long as they understand we’re a cohesive, loving unit, what we’re arguing about is not essential.
6. You want to avoid rated-R content. Recently, as we cruised past a health-related billboard with a giant condom on it, I was asked, “Mum, what’s an STD?” And at dinner recently, one of my boys wanted to know exactly what the Hiroshima bomb did to people when it exploded. As my kids get older, the answers to difficult or complex questions become more honest — but when I feel they aren’t ready to fully process a topic yet, I tailor my answers accordingly.
7. You don’t want them to take on your phobias. We have a box of questions we like to ask during family dinners and one is about phobias. I have a few (spiders) but I’m reluctant to share them because I don’t want to nurture a similar phobia in my kids. I hate to bring up fears they aren’t even aware of yet, so instead I make up a more comfortable answer.
My kids are old enough now to handle most truths, although I’m careful about how I deliver those truths. I don’t always give them the answer they want, or the answer I want, but they know they can trust me to deliver the goods – even when the goods are, well, bad.