White lies parents tell their kids
We have been raised in a culture where parents are allowed and even encouraged to tell their children white lies, but what are the consequences of lying?
The Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, magic, are probably the most common white lies parents tell their children. Harmless stories that keep the wonder and innocence of childhood alive. We have all done it. In fact, my wife and I raised our daughter to believe in both when she was younger. Would I change that? No.
But I would change the way I communicated with her as a father about it.
It is ironic that most parents punish their children for lying to them and we have a structured system where parents lying to children is acceptable. We do it in the name of keeping children innocent. Still, we are doing it in a way that actually undermines their innocence when they find out we cannot be trusted.
What I hear most from parents is that they can explain why they lie by justifying it. “We told you that because it’s fun.” Yet, if a child tells a parent they broke the rules with their friends because, “It was fun.” the child would mostly likely receive a consequence. How do you explain you made stuff up?
Does telling your child a white lie become something that is detrimental to your credibility as a parent?
One? Maybe not. More than one? Yes.
Other white lies (intentional or not) can absolutely affect your credibility.
For example, I knew a father who always told his son he was going to take him to watch a professional wrestling match when he was a child. The father would make that promise but did not follow through. After making this promise three or four times the son no longer believed his father. He also did not believe his father was honest about other things as well. It’s not uncommon to dismiss people who tell us lies, even when they seem beneficial or helpful. This is true of children as well.
Consistency over time is the most important.
How to talk to your child about Santa Claus
Prepare your child for alternative information before they receive it. For example, the one thing I wish I did with my daughter was to tell her that she may hear things at school about the Santa Claus that are different than what we have told her. I wouldn’t give her details but I would tell her to come and discuss it with me if this happened. As these discussions unfolded, I would tell her the truth. It is always better for the child to hear the truth from their parents.
I believe that children need to enjoy their childhood as much as possible. Parents determine how to do this and whether it is celebrating the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus is irrelevant if the parent is open, honest and communicates with their child as they grow. Children are resilient and can understand more abstract concepts as they grow older.
To learn how to prepare your child for these conversations we have a parenting skill, Effective Communication, for you to use. You can also use the Preventive Teaching parenting skill to prepare them for how to respond to alternative information before they receive it.
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