Little big lies

Lying to our kids isn't just ok - it's downright necessary, says Kerri Sackville

Practical Parenting / July 16 2018

I’ve never lied to my children. Ever. I think it’s vital to tell the truth at all times, even in painful situations. Only by modelling a paradigm of absolute honesty can we raise our kids to be morally upright adults.

Sadly, the above paragraph was a lie. Just another in a series of lies I tell as a parent. Because, in truth, I lie to my kids all the time. And you know what? You probably do, too. The lies we tell to children fall into four different categories...

Lies to maintain the magic

Santa Claus is real. Babies are made from love. No, these legs aren’t from a real live chicken, they grow in the ground, like trees! We don’t just tell our kids little white lies, we tell them massive great whoppers to maintain the magic of childhood. And when they discover the truth – that Santa isn’t real, that babies come from sex, that the leg came from Maisy – we feel a little bit crushed that the deception has ended. Because that means that our babies are growing up. When they’re ready for the truth, their early childhood is over.

Lies to protect ourselves

Your Easter eggs were past the use-by date so I had to throw them out. That noise? We were exercising! Yes, in the bedroom! Yes, sometimes I fib to make myself look better. I don’t want my kids to be disappointed in me, and I don’t want to have to fess up to my betrayals. (Yes, son, I ate all your chocolates. Why? Because I have no self-control.) And sometimes I fib because I’m not ready to disclose the full truth about myself as a person. I think it’s okay to fudge the truth to protect the kids – and me! – from Too Much Information.

Lies to ease the journey of motherhood

This bolognese is just meat, there’s no vegies at all! Sorry, I have no money for the horsey ride. If you don’t wear your seatbelt, I’ll have to go to jail. It can be absolutely exhausting to explain, wheedle and cajole. Sometimes a tiny lie makes life much easier. An easier life makes for a happier mum, and a happier mum makes for a happier child.

Lies to reduce pain

The bunny died of natural causes. No, you can hardly notice the pimple. Everything will be okay. Sometimes the truth is too hard to take. Sometimes our kids need to be protected from reality. They don’t need to know the bunny was killed by a fox. They don’t need to know that the pimple in the middle of their forehead is enormous. And they don’t need to know that life can be chaotic and completely unpredictable. Our kids have a built-in nonsense detector and they can spot a serious obfuscation a mile off. But little white lies can help us maintain the peace, stay age appropriate, and calm their childhood fears. And most importantly, tiny lies can make our lives as parents easier. And that’s good enough for me.