Saturday, 26 July 2014

Do You Lie to Your Children?

The other day, S and I were talking to a lady and her little girl, who was the same age as S. The mother whispered to me, it's her birthday today. Just as I was about to start making a big fuss of the child, her mother quickly added, she doesn't know! We're having it on Saturday, with a party.

Part of me thought, what a clever idea - a two year old has no idea which day is which, so why not orchestrate it so that their birthday falls on a day when you have time to celebrate, right?

Another part of me thought it was a bit mean and manipulative to change your child's birthday to suit your other commitments. In the same sort of way that you wouldn't pull faces at a blind person just because they couldn't see you, you shouldn't lie to children just because they've no way of knowing any differently.

I'm still undecided on this point, but it did make me think about the lies adults tell to children. Here are some:
  • It's bad luck to cry on your birthday
  • It's magic and only works if you are good
  • If you pick your nose, your brains will fall out
  • The wind will change, and your face will stay like that
  • The dog went to live on a farm
  • Maybe tomorrow...
  • If you swallow apple seeds, a tree will grow in your tummy
  • No, you just ate the last one.
  • We can't go in there; that shop is closed today
I am also reminded of my nan, who was the queen of the ridiculous lie. She told me if I put my fingers near the electric sockets, they would bite me. She told me she was a witch and could do magic. She told me if I played with my navel, my insides would fall out (and I still have a phobia of belly buttons).

And of course, then you have the big, universal lies like Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.

I'm inclined to avoid telling lies to S, however white they may be. I still remember the day I found out Father Christmas wasn't real: my sister told me in whispers that our parents had been lying to us the whole time; she'd seen our father sneaking into our rooms on Christmas Eve. I have this feeling that if you indulge in these things, then at some point you have to reveal the lie, or have it revealed for you. I'd rather it was never there in the first place. 

Then again... what's the harm in indulging a child's belief in magic and mystery, in fairies and pixies and the fantastic?

I'm interested to know what my lovely readers think about this sort of thing. Do you resolutely tell your children the absolute truth about everything, or do you tell little white lies from time to time?


  1. Nice, when you asked for ideas the other day this is exactly what I meant and to top it you made my day. I was having a nice soak in the bath just before seeing your question and laughed to myself. I remembered my parents telling me that if I played with my belly button my insides would fall out. So the same as you, I don't like belly buttons, not so much a phobia, but some ridiculous notion that maybe it could happen. Before anyone says it, I know it can't happen! Anyway, I think if you're talking about fairies and magical things that's fine, because you never know? But not lies which lead to dissapoitment and fear. Pete

  2. I try not to lie but explain in a way my daughter, who is 4, might understand. No reasoning behind it, just how it's gone. I do get to a point with the constant questioning though when I resort to "because" and she's now started asking questions on things she hears on the news so not sure how I'll handle that. Emma

  3. I think childhood is all about the magical belief in father christmas, the easter bunny and the tooth fairy and I intend to keep that magic alive for my children for as long as possible.Everything else I believe in being honest about. x

  4. I have noticed a trend for parents not to''do''Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy, which I do find sad. Yes they are based on lies, but I think that is rather a negative way of looking at it.

    We never had the Easter Bunny when I was growing up, but the memories of waiting for Father Christmas are priceless and I am glad that my parents told me he was real.

    Father Christmas still comes to our house at Christmas and my two children are 17 and 14. We never speak of him as if he doesn't exist, as for me the legend of Father Christmas is all about the magic of Christmas.

    Believing in the tooth fairy can also create some really special memories.

    Children are only children once and spinning them the odd white lie in order to create special memories is I think acceptable. Once they are all grown up there is no way to go back in time and reclaim the innocence of childhood, it's a time when the world should be viewed as special and magical.

    Thank you for hosting the #WeekendBlogHop!

  5. I try not to but I do occasionally tell little white lies. But not telling them it's their birthday idk that one I think is kinda wrong. It's a special day let it be special and then just explain their party will be celebrated on a different day.

  6. I am not geen on the 'if you play with your belly button...' kind of lies, because you wouldn't say it if it were actually true, would you? It's just scary.

    I also don't vague promise things. If I am not gonna buy them the whatsit/ take them to dodad/ let them whatch humjum, I just say it.

    But things they won't find out about? 'I'm going to work now' is something I say a lot if I am going out without them, as they have come around to the idea that work is an acceptable place for me to go on my own. Saves tears, everyone is happy. I suppose the birthday one is like that, but I don't really see the point, at least not in that specific eg. 2 year olds just don't care about birthdays that much. And I don't think I'd like to lie without a good reason.

    I also do Father Xmas. I am broadly of the opinion that by the time they find out it isn't true, they are old enough to get the reason why we say it is, although I appreciate there are exceptions, like when the gaff is blown by older kids too early.

    Interesting question though. Tricky one.


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