Why Some Parents Choose Not to Tell White Lies to Their Kids
As parents, it’s impossible to know exactly how to handle every single situation. We are doing our best, and every day there is new research on how to help your kid have good mental health. Sometimes telling your kid a little white lie can be the easiest way to prevent a tantrum. But there are some lies that can have a negative impact on their development.
Here at Bright Side, we wanted to tell you about the most common lies parents tell their children and the effects those can have. We also added a nice bonus at the end of the article, so you can learn some celebrities’ stances on the topic.
Common white lies parents tell their children
Whether we like to admit it or not, most parents lie to their kids, and that’s not always a bad thing. It is up to every parent to decide whether a situation calls for a little lie to prevent further meltdowns. According to research, the reasons why a parent decides to lie may vary, and these are some of the most common ones:
- Some parents lie for convenience. If a kid wants something from the store, parents may say that the store is closed just to avoid going and to prevent further arguments.
- To encourage their children, they’ll say, “That drawing is beautiful.” It’s one of the most common white lies parents tell, and there’s nothing wrong with praising your kid’s efforts.
- Parents may lie to avoid uncomfortable topics. Sometimes children ask questions that are very difficult to answer. Parents tend to bend the truth when talking about pregnancy, death, childbirth, etc.
- They’ll fib about fictional characters or traditions. Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy, etc. are some of the characters little kids tend to believe in.
Being dishonest with your kids can lead to trust issues and a fractured relationship with parents in adulthood.
According to a study conducted with young adults from Singapore, lies can have a negative impact in a child’s development and relationships. There is something called “parenting by lying,” which entails lying to little kids to control their behavior and emotional state.
This doesn’t mean that if you tell your kids Santa exists they won’t trust you in the future, or if you tell them that babies are born through a seed, they won’t love you anymore. An important characteristic of parenting by lying is that lies are constant, and they’re used in order to control the kid.
If a kid experiences constant lying, they won’t be able to differentiate when their parents are telling the truth, which is what may cause distrust and a damaged relationship. According to research, adults that are exposed to constant lies are more likely to lie to their parents and experience psychosocial adjustment problems in adulthood.
Aggressive behavior problems and antisocial personalities are some of the effects constant lying can cause in your kid as they grow up. Parents must use their better judgment to know when it’s okay to tell a little lie and when it’s not okay. This can be hard since there’s no set of rules that can fit every parent or every kid in the world, but we’re going to give you some tips that might help you.
Alternative ways you can practice being more honest with your children
- Children learn by example. Kids are less likely to lie when they witness an authority figure telling the truth, or when telling a lie can bring a negative outcome, according to research.
It’s simple — if you lie to your kids, it’s probable that they will lie to you. Sooner or later, little children will grow up and be able to recognize when you are lying to them. So it’s better to learn how to tell the truth before they mistake their parents for Pinocchio.
- Consider your child’s age. As kids get older and older, they are able to comprehend more and more things about the world. If your kid has doubts about complicated subjects, like death, pregnancy, or even Santa, it’s better to tell the truth in an age-appropriate way.
For instance, if someone in your family has terminal cancer and is at the hospital, your 4-year-old doesn’t need to know all the terrible details about the disease. Simply explaining that the person is not feeling well might be enough. According to a child therapist, Sara Dimerman, “Honesty is the best policy in life-changing situations, such as death and divorce.”
- If your kids catch you in a lie, the best thing you can do is own it and apologize. Remember that leading by example is very important with little kids. Dimerman also recommends explaining to your children why you lied to them in the first place — maybe you wanted to shield them from sadness or stress.
Some parents are even doubting whether to lie or not to their kids about Santa Claus.
Don’t worry! There is no correlation between discovering Santa isn’t real and having a bad relationship with your parents. And according to research, most American parents promote the idea that Santa is real, so you’re definitely not alone in that aspect.
Nevertheless, some experts advise telling the truth when kids start questioning the existence of Santa or other fictional characters. Let kids follow their intuition, they will thank you later.
On the Internet, we found some opinions from parents about the whole Santa situation, and we wanted to share a couple with you.
- “Instead of just teaching my daughter that Santa is not real, I teach her about the spirit of Santa, and how everyone who works to make Christmas special for someone else is a Santa in their own right.” breannasaurusrexalot / Reddit
- “We’re taking the approach of ’pretend play.’ Every year, we pretend he visits the house. This way, she doesn’t ruin the ’magic’ for other kids. She just thinks everyone pretends that Santa is real.” Unknown user / Reddit
BONUS: Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard have a rule about lying to their children.
Every parent is different, and that’s okay, and for Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, lying to their kids about certain things is a resounding no-no. Bell said in an interview that when one of her daughters started raising questions about Santa, she didn’t want to stop her instinct of asking questions. Instead, she chose to reward her critical thinking by telling her the truth.
The actress also pointed out that every parent should be able to choose — this is only what worked for her and her family. As for other subjects, like sex, the actress says she is 100% honest with her daughters.
Meanwhile, Shepard says he has a rule for himself that sometimes is hard to follow: “I have a fundamental rule that I will never lie to them.”
Do you think telling a kid Santa Claus is real can be considered lying? How did you feel when you found out that Santa wasn’t a real person? Tell us in the comments what your thoughts are on this subject — we’d love to know.