Sometimes a little lie is a harmless tool in your parenting arsenal
Parents are lying liars, and any parent who tells you they don’t occasionally lie to their kids is the biggest liar of all. Honesty might be the best policy for fully-formed adults, but the child brain doesn’t always understand reason or boundaries or parental motivation. Children basically have reptile brains; they want. They want books read to them, they want to be played with, they want to go to the park, they want to eat chocolate for breakfast—the list of wants never ends. That’s where little lies come in.
Apparently, there are some arguments that lying to a child can erode their trust in you, but to that, I say, “meh.” Sometimes a little white lie is the difference between arguing with a three-year-old for 14 minutes about why they can’t slide down the slide another 40 times, or actually making it home before you have a full-fledged public meltdown.
1. The park is closing.
When my daughter was a toddler, she loved the park. All kids love the park, but she loved the park. As in, whenever we tried to leave the park, she acted like I was separating her from a recently reunited soul mate she’d never see again. So one day, I overheard a mom at the park telling her child the park was about to close. It was high noon, the park was nowhere near closing. The child said, “Really? Okay.” No fighting, no screaming, no debating the merits of staying on a dense foam tarmac filled with throwaway toddler toys for the rest of the afternoon. Sorry honey, the park is closing!
2. This artwork is amazing!
Your toddler’s artwork isn’t good. It just isn’t. And that’s fine—it’s not supposed to be. But you better believe every time they hand you a sheet of garbage-scribble, you are going to clutch your chest and act as if you’ve just seen sketch renderings of the birth of the Mona Lisa. Some experts say lying to a child about their talents can affect their self-esteem, but this is another piece of advice that I willfully ignored when it came to raising my small children, and they turned out just fine. This artwork is amazing!
3. This (noisy) toy is broken.
Parents are expected to draw from an endless reserve of patience that simply doesn’t exist. How many times can you hear Elmo sing the ABC song before you want to pull all your hair out? This is a rhetorical question because I know the answer. It’s 17. After you hear Elmo’s little voice say, “Come on kids! Sing with me!” for the seventeenth time, something inside your very being changes. At this point, you have two options: throw Elmo out the window, or tell your toddler that he’s broken and needs to be fixed, then stash him in your closet for a few weeks until you build up the resolve to endure him singing the ABC song once again. Oh, no! Elmo is broken!
4. Santa/The Tooth Fairy/The Easter Bunny is real.
Some adults believe charging a crystal under a full moon gives it special powers, and then balk at the idea of letting kids believe a giant bunny rabbit leaves them tasty treats in the yard on Easter morning. It’s okay to let children experience some harmless “magic” while they are still young enough to believe that unbelievable things are true. Because when we allow them to experience the unbelievable as “real,” we are also giving them permission to look for the magic in things when they are adults. BRB, I need to find my crystals. The Easter Bunny is real!
5. It’s going to rain today.
Same idea as “the park is closing,” but you reserve this for the days you don’t feel like leaving the house. It’s okay to not feel like leaving the house sometimes. Parenting is exhausting; you’ve been to Barnes & Noble story time four times already this month, you’ve been to the park every day this week, and if you just want to relax today and let your toddler entertain themselves without hearing them beg for an hour—that’s okay. Yes, you should establish boundaries with your child and teach them they are not always going to hear the word, “yes.” But sometimes you may want to opt for a little white lie to avoid a struggle. It’s going to rain today!
6. Kids can’t eat this.
Our kids take everything from us, don’t they? Sometimes you want a little special treat that is only yours. Mine is super expensive, fancy dark chocolate. Whatever yours is, small kids are pretty easy to lie to, as we’ve established above. A simple, “This isn’t for kids!” is shockingly effective. I mean, you wouldn’t give them a sip of your wine, and that’s pretty easy to explain. So think of this as an extension of that. Kids can’t eat this!
7. Sorry, we’re out of…
But what about those times when your kids are onto you? When they know cookies and ice cream and so many other things you know good parents aren’t letting their kids eat are for kids? Tell them you’re out and don’t give it another thought. Just make sure you’ve tucked that unopened package of Oreos into the back of the pantry before you do. Oh sorry, we’re all out of Oreos!
8. That’s not streaming anymore.
We don’t talk about Bruno, no, no… it was super catchy the first 432 times that you heard it, but something about 433 was the straw that broke the camel’s back. That’s when it’s time to resort to, “Oh, no! Encanto isn’t streaming anymore!” Look very shocked and disappointed when you say it. This only works if your kid can’t navigate around a streaming platform themselves, so hurry up and use it while they’re young. That’s not streaming anymore!
And for a bonus, the comments in the below post are golden. Who knew so many parents told their kids the ice cream man only plays music when he’s out of ice cream!