Child wrangling is exhausting! But don’t ever be seduced by the path of least resistance.
In case you hadn’t figured it out yet, your little darlings exist with the sole purpose of draining you of every last ounce of energy while holding you in a state of semi-preparedness awaiting the next drama or calamity.
An overly dramatic for picture for sure. Be honest though, haven’t we all felt like that at some point? Arguably more so when they’re younger.
Surely it’s natural to want to make life run a little smoother when we’re exhausted, and too busy to be answering an endless stream of why, why, why questions? Isn’t it also the case that our attempts at discipline are far more likely to succeed if we tip the scales in our favour by spinning them a little yarn?
It’s a tempting option, especially when they possess a limited level of understanding and reasoning doesn’t work so well. What harm could a little lie do every now and again if it facilitates a return to harmony within the household? Bear in mind you never know how much they’re taking in at any given moment, and without the capacity to rationalise they begin to form their own belief system based partly upon your throw-away comments.
Kids automatically believe that their parents are infallible. That every word is law. It’s a narrative they cling to as long as possible because acknowledging the alternative is plain scary. That they dwell in a big unpredictable world.
When the realisation finally dawns that their parents are deeply flawed, it can come as something of a shock, not to mention a let down. Unfortunately, many parents frequently compound this fall from grace by habitually telling untruths. No harm is ever meant by them, however every time they’re rumbled, their kids learn that Mum and Dad can’t always be trusted.
Try disciplining a child whose already figured out that what you say lacks credibility, and see how far you get.
Lying is the realm of the lazy parent, enter ye at your peril. Think I’m being harsh? Well let’s look at some old favourites, and be be honest, how many are you guilty of?
Santa will know if you’re bad.
OK so the whole concept of Santa and Christmas is fun for little ones, and who ever sits their kids down and presents it all as fact? It’s more like a mass inference they grow up with, and eventually out of. Hardly a lie you started, you merely allow them to continue with the pretence because it’s good harmless fun.
Unless that is you use it as a means of control, by instilling fear that if they’re naughty then Santa will know and they won’t get any presents. Not a good move folks! If kids misbehave, then discipline them openly and honestly. Don’t use the big fat fella to do your dirty work. Inspire them to better rather than scaring them out of being naughty.
Kids aren’t daft. Part of the job description is pushing boundaries, and common sense dictates that Santa can’t be watching every child all of the time. So when it comes to Christmas, and they still get loads of presents despite being a little monster, they’ll quickly figure out that this lie doesn’t hold water.
I’d never have done that at your age.
Were you an angel when you were young? Get real, you were probably a right little trouble maker at times, as were we all. What use does it serve to pretend any different? All this lie does is create a myth that you were better than your child currently is. This is criticism not motivation, and hardly the way to foster aspiration. They’ll simply hear that they aren’t good enough, which is an awful message to send, especially if you present false standards that you never attained in the first place.
Try being honest. Tell them what you got up to as a child(within reason) and you’ll instantly be easier to relate to. You will no doubt have had consequences to face for your actions, so tell your story and help them to make the right choices by using your mistakes as cautionary tales.
It won’t hurt.
Make this promise when you can’t 100% guarantee it, and you’ll set them on a fast track to phobia town. Sometimes a visit to the dentist for example is uncomfortable, and even the most careful medical practitioner is going to hurt you from time to time. That’s life! If you make this false promise and get rumbled, then they will never believe you again.
If their ailment is likely to involve some discomfort in its treatment, then try preparing them in advance. You obviously don’t want to scare them, but better some trepidation following honesty, than a shock to the system that comes out of the blue. Tell this type of lie once and it’s a very hard one to rectify.
It’s closed today.
Child: “Can we go to the zoo?”
Parent: “It’s closed today.”
Child: “How do you know?”
Parent: “It just is!”
Whatever the venue it’s the all the same, and plenty of parents fall back on this one far too readily. Unless the venue in question is genuinely closed and you’re giving them a valid reason, then this is pure unadulterated laziness.
A relative of mine actually said this to her daughter as they drove past her local playground, even though she could clearly see other parents and children all over the swings and slides. Duh!
If you haven’t got the time, the funds, or it’s not logistically possible, then say ‘no’ and give your child an honest reason. They’re not going to get what they want either way. By lying, all you’re doing is trying to avoid responsibility for their disappointment.
Not to sound too fatalistic, but life is peppered with disappointment, and it does kids good to realise they can’t have everything their own way. If a lack of time means you can’t take them somewhere, then maybe they can help you out by doing some chores. This also instils a work/reward ethic which does no harm at all in the long run.
I’ll tell a Policeman if you’re naughty.
This one really bugs me. You are the one who’s responsible for your child’s day to day discipline, not some poor public servant who would actually be pleased to talk with your little one if you only took the time. We ought to encourage our children to engage with those who are there to protect us, not create an atmosphere of fear and distrust.
This is part of the reason why some people grow up with an anti-police attitude. Because from an early age they’re told the Police are only there to punish, not to help.
Society gets the public servants it deserves. They truly are representatives of their communities, so lets stop this and promote a better attitude one child at a time.
If you don’t come now I’ll leave you here.
This is basically a threat of abandonment. It doesn’t matter in the slightest whether or not your child really believes you’d be so cruel. It’s a horrible, destabilising threat to make. One that can’t possibly have an up-side.
I’ve witnessed kids crying uncontrollably as their parent pretended to walk away. Wow, parenting by fear, awesome job!
As parents, we have a responsibility to be a safe haven for our children, not someone who causes distress by playing mind games.
You’re the best.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but your little angel is not the best at everything. In fact they most likely aren’t the best at anything. Most of us grow up fine with this knowledge. It doesn’t crush us or prevent us from striving to be better. Quite the opposite in fact as it motivates and inspires us to action.
Yet how many doting parents constantly reinforce an illusion that their offspring are somehow better than every other kid. What constitutes being better anyway? We’re all different. Some of us are physically talented, other academically gifted, while others grow to be good all-rounders despite never winning a prize for anything.
There is absolutely no harm in praising your child for any effort they put it. Their enjoyment is the most important thing at the end of the day, so tell them they were awesome and give them a hug. Just don’t tell them that they’re better than everyone else when they clearly aren’t. This creates a false sense of comparison where one has no reason to exist. Why expose them to that kind of pressure.
Of course the worst case scenario that this lie gives rise to is one of those precocious little brats with an over inflated ego and sense of entitlement who believe they’re above everyone else. No-one likes these people, and life always has a way of eventually cutting them down to size.
A far more healthy goal is for them to aspire to be the best person they possibly can, without comparison with anyone else.
There’s no such thing as losing.
Yes there is! Every time you don’t finish first then guess what, you didn’t win. It’s the same damn thing. You can still have fun simply by taking part. There’s a great deal to be gained from healthy competition and participation, and I’d go so far as to say that winning is very often the least important outcome.
Learning to deal with loss or less favourable outcomes, is a wonderful life lesson for a child. Show them how to pick themselves up and try again, and nothing will ever to keep them down.
This lie does nothing for their confidence if you have to keep kidding them in order to maintain the illusion. It’s nice as a parent to always let your child win. I suggest it’s healthier to make them lose a percentage of the time, all the while praising their efforts. Winning then remains something to strive for, but never becomes an all consuming goal because their identity is not built around it.
They get praise for being a gracious winner, and praise for being a good loser. It’s a win, win situation.
I’ve seen grown men fall to pieces when faced with crisis, all because they never learned out how to overcome adversity. Help your child come to terms with disappointment and they’ll always be able to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and get back in the game.
I’ll never let anything happen to you.
This is such a hard one to tackle because what parent doesn’t want to wrap their kids up in cotton wool and protect them from the world. It’s certainly the goal I had when Ryan was younger. But the realist in me knew that I couldn’t hope to avert every potential disaster.
It’s a hard realisation for a parent, but one you have to face. The forces this world can exert are far greater than we can ever hope to resist. This particular lie, while made with the best intentions, will inevitably be exposed one way or another.
If reassurance must be given, then let your kids know that whatever happens, you have their back, and will stand shoulder to shoulder with them, regardless. Admittedly this statement is more suited to an older child, but you get my drift.
A much better option is not making promises you can’t keep. This won’t lessen the effort you put in on their behalf, but it will save them from a false confidence.
Sometimes stuff happens, and then you deal with it. There’s a certain amount of strength to be gained from accepting that reality. It subconsciously puts the emphasis on solution rather than the problem, which ultimately prevents your child from worrying about things that are outside of their control.
Everything will work out fine.
Similar to the last lie, this one gives the impression that each and every one of life’s challenges will mystically be resolved all on their own. It infers that little or no responsibility must be taken for an outcome as the cosmos will swoop in and smooth things over.
We are incredibly resilient beings, and there are few things in life that can’t be navigated or overcome. The only caveat being that we must personally invest in any solution. It’s very rare that things work out satisfactorily all by themselves. So trusting to fate, karma, or any other faith based structure to wash away one’s woes is nothing more than a roll of the dice. I’d prefer to load those dice every single time, and walk away a winner.
Taking full responsibility for one’s actions and decisions is pivotal if we want to have the greatest possible influence within our world. It’s powerful, builds self-reliance, and increases one’s ability to critically assess the circumstances we find ourselves within. From this standpoint, strategies and solutions are rarely far from our grasp.
It’s a difficult lesson to teach your kids without scaremongering. Yet you can start incredibly early by providing a gentle combination of comfort and guidance, based upon active involvement. The subtle message being that they can find relief in any situation, while personally influencing the outcome.
We tell each other lies every day, and It’d be disingenuous of me to claim to be the exception. There is however a big difference between saving a friend’s feelings after their latest fashion faux pas, and being careless or lazy with what we tell our kids. Taking the extra effort and sticking with an honest, up front parental approach, will allow you to reap the benefits later on.
While you and your offspring won’t always see eye to eye, and disagreements occur naturally on occasion, one thing’s for sure. This approach ensures they always know you’re speaking the truth, at least your truth, and that cultivates respect and trust. 
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