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Top 10 Lies (Half-Truths) Parents Tell Their Children

Updated on April 14, 2013
What are the lies you tell to your kids?
What are the lies you tell to your kids? | Source

Is it Ever Right to Lie to Your Children?

Warning: I'm going to tell you right upfront that you're probably not going to agree with everything I say in this article.

After my spouse and I were married, through no choice of our own, we waited to have kids. We both wanted a whole bunch of kids - I seem to remember discussing numbers ranging anywhere from 5 to 10 kids (What we're we thinking?).

Well, for the first ten years of our marriage, we had all sorts of medical and infertility problems. We spent a fortune on doctors and treatments that filled us with hope but in the end, did not deliver on their promise.

The worst part of it all was the continual stream of friends calling us with the blessed news that they were expecting. We were happy for our expectant friends, however, we hated getting all those phone calls.


The Lies Parents Tell

The reason I tell you all this is to say that when our children finally came along, we were both ten years further down the road and possibly a bit more aware of what a true blessing children can be (I'm continually reminding myself of this as my 16 and 18 year old daughters bicker and fight to the death over who is the best looking singer in the latest and greatest boy band). So, before I have to be medicated or restrained, take a trip with me in the old time machine and go back with me about 18 years.

(Insert strange, time-traveller sound effects here)

There we are. Can you see us? We're that happy couple sitting over there just getting the news that we are finally expecting. As a youngish couple in our thirties, this is a time of parental bliss. That first child is finally on the way and everything is brightly tinted in beautiful pastel colors, rainbows and all things "baby."

We love this beautiful place, this world of expectant parents. So many expectations and plans for our child. Look, there we are - talking to one of our friends who now has 3 older children. One of the things I noticed about this other couple was the things they would tell their kids - the half-truths or lies; "Get down off those stairs or I'm going to kill you!" or "Sitting too close to the TV will rot your brain" or "eat that food, it's delicious - you'll love it."

"Mommy, why is Santa Claus putting gas in that car?"
"Mommy, why is Santa Claus putting gas in that car?" | Source

Over the next few months, we noticed other parents and the things they would tell their kids. Fabricated stories that described mythical bearded men who could fly around the world in a single night delivering toys. An anthropomorphic rabbit that carries a basket filled with decorated eggs. The winged creature that somehow enters a child's room in the dead of night, absconds with a bit of their skull and leaves a token amount of money.

OK, so these prevarications of the truth are what parents call harmless "white lies." Most parents have no problem perpetuating these myths because, after all, what harm could they possibly do?


Jim Carrey played an accomplished Liar in the motion picture, "Liar, Liar."
Jim Carrey played an accomplished Liar in the motion picture, "Liar, Liar." | Source

A Lesson From the Motion Picture, "Liar, Liar"

Sure, most parents tell lies to their kids but is there another way to handle this? Could parents actually be truthful and avoid telling lies to their children? In the motion picture "Liar, Liar" (starring Jim Carey) that very question is addressed.

From the child's standpoint, discovering a parent who lies can be devastating. The little boy in this movie story is devastated when he discovers his lawyer father not only lies as a part of a normal day's work, but also habitually lies to everyone - including him. In the end, this movie actually has a good, encouraging message that people should be honest - especially parents.

You have to remember that the whole world to a young child is primarily made up of time with Mom, Dad and possibly siblings. On top of that, kids are naturally trusting. So, why would a parent what to mess that up? As new parents, that's what we were asking ourselves as we brought our first child home.


A Funny Story About the Dangers of Lying

When our children were very young, about 2 and 4 years of age, we learned a very powerful lesson about the dangers of even telling a little white lie. In an attempt to avoid getting involved in a long conversation with my mother (She calls several times a week), my brother asked my 4-year-old daughter if she would answer the telephone. In a whispering tone, he instructed her to tell Grandma that he was not at home - which she did. Well, sort of.

After a long pause and several minutes looking intently at my brother who was wildly flailing his arms like a third base coach giving an obvious signal for a base runner to steal home, my daughter said in a clear voice, "Hold on, Grandma. He's telling me that he's not here right now and he doesn't really want to talk."

Later, I explained to my brother that we try to encourage our kids to speak truthfully. He told me he never thought of "telling someone a family member isn't home" as a lie, but would have to reconsider his view on that. We believe that giving a signal to kids that it's OK to lie in one situation but not in another is a double standard.

By the way, whenever Grandma calls my brothers house, she still doesn't believe he's not at home - even when he's not!

This is the Part Where We'll Probably Disagree

So there we were, shiny new parents with our first child now home. It was both exhilarating and terrifying. What would we do? How would we raise our child? Who gave these two messed up people permission to have a child? How on earth are we even qualified to raise a puppy, let alone a human being? We were very aware of how important this endeavor would be and we wanted to do everything perfectly.

Maybe we were sort of unrealistic in our thinking, but we really did intend to take this parenting thing seriously. By that, I'm not implicating any other parents and how they raise their own kids. I just know for us, we wanted to do it a certain way - to us, that was the right way. Lying to our kids - in any way, shape or form - was not included in that "right" way.


What's So Bad About Little White Lies?

Another thing we noticed was that all those expectant couples that used to call us during our decade of infertility now had older kids, some of whom had developed problems with lying. That made us think. We just figured that if we told our kids lies, no matter how seemingly insignificant, it would give them permission to lie.

As Shakepseare put it, "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." No matter what you call it, a lie is still a lie - and you're fooling yourself if you think kids don't know this.

"Well," some parents would say, "we lie to our kids to protect them." At first that seems like a perfectly logical reason to prevaricate, but it is still lying. Sometimes parents are unsure about how to deal with the tough situations so they make something up to protect their children.

Top 10 Lies or Half-Truths Parents Tell Their Kids

1) Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy (Have you ever met them?)

2) I love your art/craft/song - whatever (If everything a child does is great, how will they aspire to do even more? Be supportive but also encourage them to do more)

3) This won't take long (Have you forgotten how long a half hour seems to a kid?)

4) We're almost there (You know you're still 12 hours from your destination. Tell them the time it takes or have them watch for certain numbers on the clock, etc.)

5) This will not hurt (Really? That must be why they're screaming)

6) Try this, it's delicious (carrots give you night vision, etc. Some kids are simply not going to like certain foods)

7) You're beautiful and unique (Yes, your kids are truly beautiful but not to everyone - just be sure to tell them about the inner beauty. And if kids are unique, why are they always trying to look like someone else? Don't just give a pat answer. Encourage them to be unique, to discover their own abilities or style)

8) Babies are delivered by a stork (If you're still using this one, well, good luck!)

9) That's the end of the Story (Be honest, tell them you're just too tired to read anymore)

10) It doesn't matter who wins (OK, real-world reality check. In some circumstance - fair or not - winning matters in this world)


Worse, sometimes parents lie because it's just simply more convenient than taking time with a child and explaining something or helping them work through a difficult time (BTW, isn't that what parenting is about?).

For example, telling a child the family pet has gone to live on a farm somewhere far away when the animal is actually dead. This can easily backfire and cause even more problems down the road.

Now, don't get me wrong, explanations need to be age-appropriate. Children of a very young age do not need a long, detailed explanation of death or dying.

How about telling young children that a person is very sick and could not get well, even with the doctors help. They will understand that and probably won't need to know any more. Parents should help kids deal with the hard issues of life, but on a level which they can handle these difficult situations.


Kids Should Always Know You Love Them - No Matter What

As parents, we decided that our kids should grow up in an environment where it was perfectly safe to tell the truth. Now, we were very clear that lying had consequences but telling the truth was always preferable. This took a great deal of self-control on our parts. We trained ourselves to not react harshly when our young daughters came to us and told the truth. We also made it a very positive experience when they chose to be truthful.

We happily discovered that making a safe environment to tell us anything paid off big-time when our kids became teenagers. They now feel like they can tell us anything, no matter how shocking, and we will remain calm and controlled. Our primary goal was to let them know that whatever they told us, we would always love them - even though there would be consequences from telling a lie. We figured it was easier on them to learn these lessons at home where consequences were minimal and somewhat controllable.

At least, that's the way we handled it.



The Bottom Line on Lying to Kids

SO if you're still reading and haven't thrown something at your computer screen by now, here's the long and short of it.

I don't ever want to lie to my kids. If that is offensive to you, I apologize but it's how I feel about this. I'm not telling you how to raise your kids, I'm just saying this is the path we have taken. In my opinion, looking back, I know it was the right decision for us. I truly believe my family is closer and open because of the path we have chosen.

While I do believe one should never lie to their children, I also believe that discretion is also necessary in certain situations, especially when dealing with very young children.

We live in a world that makes it easy to lie and even ignores consequences. Some folks are forgiven, some even praised for lying. "A lie is still a lie, no matter what everyone else is doing, even if it seems right - it's still a lie," as my dearly departed Nana used to tell me.

It's never too late to start down a new path. Perhaps our story - and the stories of others who have chosen this path - will encourage you and your family to take a different approach in the future.

Good luck!


Truth or Lie Poll

When is it OK to tell your kids a lie?

See results


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    • MKayo profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Texas

      Thanks for reading my article! Great,well-thought-out comments.

    • SharonBallantine profile image


      4 years ago

      It seems like a black-and-white topic when we discuss whether it is right to lie to our kids for any reason, but even black and white often have tints of gray or other colors in them.

      Some people will insist that a "lie of omission" is still a lie, but as you point out there are times when discretion is important.

      We must also evaluate everything based on our unique (and I'm not ashamed to say beautiful) children. At least in terms of how much discretion we should apply.

      Some parents get pleasure from telling their children about Santa Claus, others find it a silly fairy tale, and others speak of the spirit of giving being the "real" St Nick.

      The best way to know what is right for your family is to check in with your Internal Guidance System.

    • MKayo profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Texas

      Bookworm - thanks for the read and great comments!

    • bookworm35 profile image

      Sheene Kirlew 

      5 years ago from Jamaica

      Great article! I personally have never even attempted to teach any of my 4 kids about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy. They're fictional, and to teach them these characters exist would mean plenty of lying down the road. I also cannot fathom why we don't just teach children why Christmas or Easter is sacred without adding that a fat man comes in through the chimney at night and then proceeds to give him credit for the gifts we buy for our kids.

      My kids have grown up just fine not believing in any of these fictional characters, and will most likely not be imparting to their children any of those myths about the stork, or Santa, or the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy that many parents are fond of teaching their children as truths.

    • MKayo profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Texas

      Thanks for the read and comment, Panorea.

    • Panorea White profile image

      Panorea White 

      5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Yes, having children is truly a joy. I believe that children teach their parents many lessons about life as well. It goes both ways. So, thank you for your article and looking forward to more!

    • MKayo profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Texas

      Panorea - Agreed. Raising kids IS hard work but worth every moment - especially when you see your kid standing for something true in a world that seems to be controlled by relativism. Yes, a struggle but worth the effort.

    • Panorea White profile image

      Panorea White 

      5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Yes, I agree. Sometimes you must remind yourself as a parent to try to reinvent things on a daily basis. Not falling into the same patterns that you grew up with takes work. It's something that most parents struggle with everyday. Children ask a lot of questions and it is important to be patient, understanding, and honest the best you can. Perfection is something unrealistic. You must take things as they come.

    • MKayo profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Texas

      Panorea White - very true, however, it might be time to make a new pattern for future generations, eh? Thanks for the comment!

    • Panorea White profile image

      Panorea White 

      5 years ago from Los Angeles

      It's funny how when you're growing up you catch your parents in a lie and say to yourself that you will never lie to your children. Then you become a parent and end up doing exactly what your parents did. Classic!

    • MKayo profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Texas

      moonlake - First, thanks for leaving such a well-thought-out and thoughtful response.

      Truth, when raising children is always a matter of disclosure. Children simply do not need all the information about a particular incident or situation. Depending on the level of maturity, they simply cannot (and should not) handle all aspects of the truth. That's where a parent must learn how much truth to disclose to their own children.

      In our situation, one incident stood out and was the motivation to raise out kids the way we did. When our kids saw us answering the phone and telling the caller that the person to whom they wanted to speak was not at home - when in fact, that person was at home - was wrong in the eyes of our kids. Our kids wanted to know why we were lying when someone called on the phone. Well, we did not have a good answer. We knew that this was sending a message to our kids that it is OK to lie in certain situations. That was inconsistent with the way we were raising our kids.

      That being said, we did have some similar incidents such as the one you mention in your post, however, we quickly corrected our kids and used the situation as a teaching tool. Discretion, tact and disclosure were always a part of those teaching opportunities. So far, my kids are doing well, they are not rude or abrasive and have learned that the truth needs to be told but always with a measure of discretion, tact and love.

      One lats thing, I hope that I did not push our way of parenting as the best way for everyone. I am nobody's judge. You are right in saying that what's best for my family may not be the best for anyone else. It's just the path we wanted to take with our family. I think it has worked well for our family, but each family must choose their own path.

      Glad it got you to thinking - Thanks for the vote up!

    • moonlake profile image


      6 years ago from America

      If you made it through raising your children with never lying to them you are very lucky and I applaud you for that. There are situations that come up where it’s best to leave out the truth. For example don't tell your child your having an affair with the mailman if she ask, better to lie.

      I once had a friend’s child say something so rude to me that our friendship ended. Her explanation was that she always taught her children to speak their minds and tell the truth. She then apologized for what her child said. Her children are grown now and are very rude people.

      To me it’s not a child’s place to reprimand anyone for their bad habits or whatever, that is better left up to a friend or family member.

      That’s just my thinking. The way you raised your children if they are grown ups now was what was best for your family but it’s not always best for someone else’s family. I voted up on your thought provoking hub.

    • MKayo profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Texas

      skellams - I do not know the particulars of your situation or the details and nuances of your relationships, however, I do know a few hard and fast absolute rules that have worked for us.

      First, honesty (truth) is always, always the best way to go. Truth never requires a defense - it is what it is. Being truthful with your kids is VITAL. I think it's much harder to be truthful, especially with kids because it requires so much explanation and time. One of the benefits of the honest approach is we get us to spend more time with our kids - and that's never bad.

      Second, it's never too late to start being honest. As you mentioned in one incident with your daughter - tact - that is very important. We had the same issues with our kids. We had to carefully teach them about tact and discretion. There were times when I never thought they would get it. But I have to say that sometimes, stark truth can work magic. When our kids were just five and seven-years-old, a friend of ours came over for dinner one evening. This woman was a smoker and our kids were always told that smoking is bad for you. So, at dinner that evening, the conversation went something like this:

      "Why do you smoke cigarettes?"

      "Well, I like them. I like the way they make me feel. I like the..."

      "They're bad for you. They will make you sick and die."

      (Insert long silence here)

      You know what? Her feelings were hurt at first but she quit smoking the next day, cold turkey after 30 years of smoking. Now, I'm not saying we should all be that brutally honest. A five-year-old can say things that most adults will not. This friend gives credit for quitting to that honest five-year-old (now 17 years-old)

      I will say that the honest approach requires a close relationship with your child and daily interaction. Remember, they have no frame of reference or experience (except yours) to draw from. If you have a close, trusting relationship, they will come to you for your help in these matters and may actually listen.

      One other thing I know for sure - parenting is not for sissies. It requires hard, daily (sometimes minute-by-minute) attention.

      Good luck!

    • skellams profile image

      Shonda Kellams 

      6 years ago from USA

      Hi. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this subject. I agree with a lot of what you have said. As a mother of four, ages 6 to 18, I think it is so important for my kids to feel like they can talk to me about anything. I have always done my best not to over re-act and to let them know that I love them no matter what.

      We did tell our kids about Santa, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy however. I remember how much fun these things were when I was kid and I wanted them to enjoy them as I did.

      Recently I have heard my 18 year old daughter telling friends and family how their hair really looks and that the jeans they are wearing do make their butt look big, etc. There has been a few times when what she was saying was true, but sounded so rude and hurt someone's feelings though. I have talked to her many times about having a little tact and have even told her that in these instances it's okay to tell someone they look good even if they do not.

      Any thoughts or suggestions anyone has about another approach I could try would be very much appreciated.


    • MKayo profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Texas

      Well Sid, the jury is still out on that. Our kids are 16 and 18 right now and at the age where big changes occur almost daily. I should probably wait a bit before I start writing stories about that topic. I would like to believe that the things we taught them will help them in life and they will be better off for it. Like I said, the jury is till out.

      Thanks so much for stopping by to read this and for your kind comments. Best, M

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 

      6 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      I really appreciate the way you weave your message in with the story of raising your children. My wife and I were never blessed with children, but I do largely agree with your perspective. I would only add that, as a fiction writer, I believe that all people, children included, can enjoy stories. Stories are neither lies nor truth. A story only becomes a lie when someone claims it is true.

      I would love to hear some specific stories of how raising your kids this way helped when they were young, when they were teenagers, and now.

    • MKayo profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Texas

      Jean - Thanks for stopping by to read this. Glad to hear there are others out there who believe honesty is a healthy, productive way to live and relate to one another. Best to you! M

    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 

      6 years ago from New Jersey

      I agree with a lot you said. Now when I think back, we were so hard on the Grandparents. We didn't allow any "baby talk" didn't like a lot of TV and did tell the truth alot. My brother said many years later, he thought at first it was odd the kids always stayed home a lot. But he realized if they were going to do something, we told them to tell us the truth, and do it home so they wouldn't get in trouble. It worked, and we have great relationships.

    • MKayo profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Texas

      I think it's more work to be truthful bit definitely worth it when they become adults. Thanks for commenting.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I don't agree with parents who lie to their children it just bad influence and in some things mentioned can destroy the relationship between parent and child.

    • MKayo profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Texas

      peachpurple - thank you for your kind words. This topic is very close to my heart.

    • peachpurple profile image


      6 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      i love reading your hub. I would have selected your hub as Hub of the day if I were in HP team. You had well written the thoughts that every parents had in mind. Voted up


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