Whoever said Disney World was the happiest place on earth wasn’t there with me in 1983. As a 7 year old girl, I took that trip during the Epcot center’s exhibit showcasing state of the art advancements in communications. Walking through the awe inspiring AT&T Pavilion with my parents, I remember turning to my mother and asking which was better, the exhibit or my science project. With no hesitation, she chose the Epcot exhibit. What I remember of the rest of that trip was burning anger, not speaking to my mother and a sense of defeat. As an adult, whenever she laughingly retells the story of that trip, I ask her why she didn’t just choose my science project. Her response is always the same: “I didn’t want to lie to you.”
I, on the other hand, have no problem lying to my children. When you say it out loud, it sounds kind of awful. But is it such a bad thing to tell little white lies to your kids?
I don’t lie about important or life changing things, of course, but I believe that small lies actually serve a very useful purpose when it comes to parenting.
For example, there are the little lies that keep a child from having a meltdown when he can’t get what he wants. Say you’re passing a toy store and your child starts freaking out for a new Power Ranger. Instead of “Sorry kiddo, I have no time to stop at Toys R Us” – which makes my kids cry even harder and demand that I go back – I say “Oh shucks buddy, that Toys R Us is closed on Tuesdays.” They just can’t argue with that. No one tantrums, remembers or needs therapy resulting from my lie.
Other lies keep life running smoothly, such as “All your other friends have a tutor” or “You’ll be the only kid not taking chess.” Your children feel like things are fair, and no one is harmed (or needs to be bribed) in the process.
Some lies make kids feel like they’re in charge while a parent can get what they want (such as “those cupcakes are hot and spicy. You sure you want one?”).
Some lies just keep a parent from facing their kids’ wrath. Like “the tooth fairy dropped your money off with me last night by mistake!”
And then there’s my favorite lie: the ice cream man only plays music when he’s run out of ice cream (you’re welcome).
Of course, once in a while a lie backfires. In an effort to speed up the torturously slow pace at which my children chew and swallow their food, my husband told them that food that stays in your mouth too long turns into garbage. Brilliant! While we were sure this would result in our kids eating more efficiently, instead, my children started spitting out anything that was in their mouth longer than a few seconds while crying that they didn’t want to eat garbage.
But by and large, bending the truth usually works out pretty well. Before I could read, my father would tell me that when we passed a road sign with an arrow, it was directing us toward the nearest home for bad girls. Because of that, I was so abnormally good in the car. Until I could read, of course. Then all bets were off.
So while it’s universally held that honesty is the best policy, when it comes to kids, sometimes harmless little lies are a really close second. And though some say that he who tells too many little white lies soon becomes color blind, the truth is, it may just be worth the risk.