As a parent, I am sometimes startled by the number of lies others parents tell their kids:
“If you’re not good, a monster will get you!”
“Your vegetables will make you a super strong!”
“Santa brought you this present.”
“I don’t know.”
Most seem to be completely well-intentioned. They encourage discipline, a healthy diet, adherence to tradition, or even just a break for parents. But like so many other things done for the “right reasons,” I wonder if there are pernicious effects to casual parental lying.
In a world of propaganda and corrupted expertise, if kids can’t trust their parents, who can they trust? At best, lying reduces parents to equivalent status with other questionable sources of information. At worst, it takes parents out consideration entirely as a source of truth and authority.
I make it my goal to be as honest as possible with my kids. This isn’t always easy. Sometimes it means answering subsequent “why” questions more times than I can count. Sometimes it means testing my ability to break down a topic.
When I’m tired, when the topic isn’t appropriate for their age or location, or when I’m just plain wrong, I try to take those things head on. “Let’s talk about it more tomorrow.” “Let’s discuss at home, okay?” “I think you’ll understand it better when you’re older.” I don’t say I don’t know if I do. If I was wrong about something, I admit it.
Does being fallible reduce my authority? Maybe so, but I think my kids will figure out my fallibility sooner than later anyway. Lord knows I’m not a perfect parent, but if I ever have to ask my kids, “would I lie to you?” I want them to be able to confidently say, “no!”