Everyone has their own opinion about the most important rule of parenting, but you’ll never be able to convince me it isn’t this one: don’t lie to your kids. Ever. About anything.
Maybe I should qualify just a bit: the absolute number one, carved in stone rule is love and protect them at all times and at all costs, but that one should go without saying.
So next one down the list is don’t lie.
Don’t lie because telling the truth is too embarrassing.
Don’t lie because you’re afraid the truth will hurt their feelings.
Don’t lie because you’re afraid the truth will make them go buck wild or reject your religion or push them away from you.
Don’t even lie because you don’t know the answer and don’t have the time/energy/interest to look up the right answer.
Just don’t do it. I’ve been raising kids for 26 years and never once has there been a situation that a lie was the proper response. That doesn’t mean I tell them 100% of the truth 100% of the time. It means I’ve always been able to respond in such a way that I am not lying to them.
If it’s a delicate subject they are asking about, I take age, personality and maturity into account. I take an extra minute to think about what they really want to know.
And I think about how I would want to be answered.
Of course sometimes the answer is truly none of their business or you just don’t know the answer, but there is still no need to lie. Just flat-out tell them that.
*Here’s my fun tip of the day: if they ask you an intensely personal or just plain nosy question (usually one involving your sex life/prior hell-raising activities) that they really do not need an answer for, look them firmly in the eye and ask your own question:
“Do you really want to know the answer?” (If you can cock an eyebrow, this would be an awesome time to throw it in.)
Nine times out of ten they don’t, once they really think about what the answer might be (and the fact that you just might tell them). But if you have a particularly smartass child you very well may get a “yes.” Sometimes it’s worth telling the absolute truth just to
laugh at see the expression of adolescent horror on their face when your answer sinks in all the way. It’s also a damn good way to make sure the next time you ask if they really want to know they will immediately change the subject.*
If the time comes that you feel you absolutely have to lie about Uncle Bob being in jail or if you smoked reefer in college, do one more thing. Think about every person you’ve cared about who lied to you, how much it hurt when you found out and how it changed your perception of that person. How would it feel to know your child thinks that way about you?
And if they do think that about you, how likely are they to tell the truth when you absolutely need them to?
I need to do two things for my child – teach them how to be successful adults and keep them safe while they’re learning. One of the vital elements to both of these is trust. I need to know they really will be where they said they will be. I simply can’t keep them safe if they lie to me.
They need to know they can trust me and what I say every single time. That truly is one of the most important things I can give a child.