The average parent will tell their child about 3000 “white lies” during their childhood, according to a study in the United Kingdom. If that number actually sounds low to you, you’re probably a parent. Parents lie to their kids for all sorts of reasons — to protect them from the outside world, to keep them from harm, and to make themselves, or their kids, feel better. Some of the newer theories of parenting purport that telling your child any type of lie, small or otherwise, is bad. They advise telling young children the truth about Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy as early as possible. But how much fun is that, for kids and for parents? Kids need to learn at an early age that lies are a part of life.
1. There is a Santa Claus, but he’ll only visit you if you’re good.
The threat of Santa is enough to keep many kids’ behavior in check all year long. Parents tell their children that they keep in contact with him throughout the year, so they better behave. This also applies to the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and other made-up characters we tell our kids are real. When our children find out we’ve been lying to them, it can be devastating. It might even make them question everything you’ve ever told them throughout their childhood. Or maybe that’s just me.
2. This is going to hurt me more than it will hurt you.
How stupid of a statement is that, really, when you think about it? How could getting a shot at the doctor’s office hurt you more than it hurts your child (physically, that is)? Sure, seeing your little one cry and get all upset over a shot, or being punished, having something taken away, can be emotionally gut-wrenching, but really, will it hurt you more than it hurts them? I think not.
3. Mommy and Daddy are taking a nap.
Only those who are parents will understand the double entendre behind this little white lie. Yes, Mommy and Daddy are in the bedroom, but no, they’re not really sleeping. When the bedroom door is closed, most children have been told, don’t come in without knocking. What goes on behind closed doors doesn’t have to be shared with the youngins, right? Of course, as kids get older they usually figure out why Mommy and Daddy’s bedroom door is closed. By that time, the “ick” factor keeps them from barging in.
4. If you tell me the truth, you won’t get in trouble.
Almost every parent has probably told their child this lie. Yes, maybe telling the truth will get you in less trouble than if you don’t tell the truth and it comes out later. But you’re still getting in trouble, no matter what. When kids get old enough to figure this out, they become pretty consummate liars themselves.
5. Eating your vegetables will make you grow up big and strong
We tell our kids all sorts of untruths to get them to eat their vegetables, fruits, and nutritious stuff. One of the classics is that eating spinach (or other vegetables) will make you grow up to be a big, strong man (or woman). Vegetables can only go so far, however. Genetics are going to play a huge role in how big and strong you will really grow up to be. Luckily the kids don’t know this, or we’d never get them to eat any healthy foods!
6. If you play with your privates too much, they’ll drop off/you’ll go blind.
Your parents want you to emulate the Seinfeld episode and become master of your own domain. I’m not sure if this lie is as common now with parents as it was way back when, but most parents would prefer that their little ones not sit around “discovering” their privates in public. And most parents also don’t want to risk walking in on Johnny playing with his Johnson in his bedroom. So this lie is most likely still in widespread use.
7. If you keep making that face, your face will stay that way.
“If you cross your eyes, they’ll stay that way” is another lie related to this one. Parents use this one simply to get their kids to stop making wacky faces, or to get that surly, dejected look off their child’s face. (Good luck with that one!) This is a lie that most savvy kids of this day and age probably won’t believe.
8. Mommy and/or Daddy never took illegal drugs/drank underage/had premarital sex.
In an attempt to make sure your own kids don’t make some of the same mistakes you made in your teenage/young adult years, you probably have told them a few untruths about things you did or did not do. No, of course we didn’t have premarital sex, that’s wrong. You should wait till you’re married. We never did any illegal drugs when we were your age. I didn’t drink alcohol until I was 21, and only in moderation after that. This category of lies may be the biggest and most popular lie that parents tell their children most often.
9. SpongeBob’s not on this week/the TV is broken/our cable is out.
Unfortunately, most kids are technically smart enough to figure out that this one’s not true, no matter how often and how vehemently you tell them that. In an attempt to have some peace and quiet, you might tell your kids their favorite show was canceled or just isn’t on television anymore, that the cable is out, or that the satellite dish is broken. Then, your little techie will volunteer to fix it, and voila, SpongeBob once again rules the family room!
10. The stork brought you to us.
“Where do babies come from?” or, even more difficult, “Where did I come from?” is a common question that young, prepubescent children ask their parents. Parents choose to answer this in a variety of way. The straightforward, honest approach would probably be best, but many parents still rely on folklore and legend to explain this phenomenon to their offspring. Depending upon the age of the child, he or she probably won’t buy the stork metaphor, but I’m sure there are countless other creative and untrue ways to explain the birth process to your child.