Do you ever lie to your kids?

It’s coming up to Christmas / Hannukah and as a two-religion family, we celebrate both holidays, with different grandparents. We figure why not celebrate holidays as often as possible?
Anyway, holidays with presents mean that presents for our children start to show up on our doorstep weeks beforehand, sometimes in bright logo boxes, other times in dull brown cardboard, but huge.
Last night…

I was exhausted all yesterday, so last night I actually went to bed with the kids at 7.30pm (can’t remember the last time I did that!) and A- and G- were in their room, going to sleep, while the baby was in the big bedroom with me, lights off, slowing down to go to sleep.
A few minutes later, quiet as a wraith, G- comes into the room and whispers “Daddy, someone just knocked on the door.”
I answer ‘it’s okay, the door’s locked, go back to sleep.” (and he did! Amazing, such an easy bedtime last night)
This morning I wanted to have some closure and explain to them that it was just the UPS guy knocking on the door to let us know we’d received a package, but the package was a gift from Grandpa in a box that’s at least 2′ x 2′ x 3’ in size. I have no idea what it is, but it’s big!
So I lied to my kids. I told them that it was the UPS guy who knocked on the door last night after we went to bed, and that it was “just some boring book for Daddy”. They both talked about how weird it was to have someone knock on the door after dinner, but then the conversation wandered off the topic and was done.
Would you have lied to your kids in this situation? Or would you have said “it’s a present for you from Grandpa, but you can’t open it until Christmas, honey” even if you knew that they’d go bonkers wanting to see the box, shake it, pry a corner open to peek?

8 comments on “Do you ever lie to your kids?

  1. Nope.. wouldn’t have lied here… my kids would be all over me to see Daddy’s new boring book and would grill me (stay-at-home-Daddy).
    Something like this sounds like a good time for the kids to learn about patience.. and if they ask to open the box.. you could just say. No.. and when they whine about how much they want to see it say.. “I know! Me too!” and show them how fun it is to wait.
    And when they call you mean Mommy or Daddy.. you could say.. “I love you no matter what you say.. you must be really upset.”
    Just my thought.. of course.. Santa is coming to my house.. so.. who knows when to lie.

  2. I try not to lie to my children. I find that I can be creative enough with them to avoid too much conflict with something like waiting to open presents. They’re still young enough (2 and 4) so that I can distract the younger one and “reason” with the older one. I think kids pick up on when we’re untruthful, they can just smell it or something!

  3. Dave,
    Prevarication is an easy habit to get into. In the past 30 years, we’ve had no Santa Claus, no Easter Bunny, no Tooth Fairy. But we have had a lot of love from people who truly care about us and the opportunity to express that appreciation to them (many of whom have now passed on.)
    In our family, the proof is in the pudding: our two daughters choose to raise their children the same way. They remember no less delight in the season or the gift. And, their creative stories used those imaginary characters, too.
    The biggest gift we received together was a trip to Disney World from my parents. Did we keep it a secret? No. For six months, the evening bedtime story was from one or another Guide to Disney World or a Disney picture book.
    The trip was truly magical and the anticipation was very much a part of that.
    Even young children need the boundary of “not now.” A “not now” followed by putting it out of sight is not terribly difficult. And, it is good preparation for the time when “not now” is really hard to handle.
    Further, I guess I’d question why you felt the need to even mention the contents of the package. Apparently, your children were more concerned with the unusual circumstances more than the contents.
    You couldn’t know that would be the case, but it sounds to me like you’ve trained them to respect those boundaries of “mine” and “yours.”
    Willingess to take the hit of dealing with small children’s responses when you’re already tired (or just not wanting to do it) is tough.
    Parenting is tough. Evaluating how you handled a situation makes it get easier next time. It’s also the most rewarding vocation there is.

  4. Last year I did nearly all my Holiday shopping online. The UPS chappie and I became firm pals. But the fall-out from the children when he came to call regularly just before bedtime [he was working double shift] became a regular nightmare – so much excitement and so much disappointment rolled into one.
    This year I asked him not to ring the bell – luckily he’s very understanding.

  5. I sorta agree with Dave C. I don’t believe that you had to lie which doesn’t mean if I been in your shoes maybe I would have too. However just because this package was for the children for Christmas, you are the Papa, and for today and until christmas this package was for the “mudroom” or where ever you store stuff until it’s time for it, no lie there and it is all we need to share with lil’ones.
    As for Santa and the Tooth Faery;In my home and in my life they are very real spirits of sharing and giving There’s is no lie there.Because sometimes a gift is not from Mom and Dad, it’s from the cosmos, which Santa embodies. My parents when we were little used to wait until we were asleep Christmas Eve to put up our tree and put out the presents so that we thought that Santa did it. Char and Steve
    Happy Holidays

  6. I have never lied to my kids, at least never directly. I consider, in the context of western cultural understandings, a direct lie to a child to be a direct betrayal of the trust relationship between a parent and child. In the moment of the lie, the child is abandoned by its parent, and at some level, the child will know it. Frequently I hear parents do it, and I cringe every time I hear it done. Don’t they know that they are destroying the most important relationship they have with their children, that of trust? Don’t they know that they are teaching their children that its OK to lie to those they love, through modelling the behavior of lying? Do they think that their children are so stupid or ignorant that they won’t at some stage (perhaps even years later) figure out that they’ve been lied to? And then what? Our jails are full of people who were lied to by their parents and our society is full of people who have, for similar reasons, lost track of how to distinguish a culturally reasonable means of delivering the truth to others, whether to their friends & family or to strangers. What terrible long term price is paid to service a seemingly expedient but, no doubt, relatively unnecessary short term gain.
    As an aside, I never respond initially to my kids negatively if they tell me the truth, no matter how disappointed I feel inside on learning that truth. At some point I might let them know that I think that a particular behavior that their truth-telling revealed to me might cause them (or someone else)trouble and that it would best be avoided in the future for whatever reason, and I might even go so far as to let them know that the only reason I think they didn’t encounter the trouble this time around was pure luck, with the understanding that chances are they wouldn’t be so lucky next time around…that sort of discussion. But truth-telling is always treated as a positive exercise, no matter how unpleasant it might seem at first blush either to hear, or to tell the truth.
    Having said that, I have also had the discussion with my children that there are exceptional times when we simply cannot tell the truth. These are times when people would unfairly harm us and would misuse our telling of the truth to them for the sake of their own personal gain, without consideration of or respect for our basic rights to life, of personal security and safety, of property etc. Those people do not deserve the truth from us if they might abuse it and cause us significant personal peril in the process, and so, in those cases a lie is OK. But those cases are usually pretty obvious. So when in doubt, tell the truth, regardless of whether it seems as if most others tell lies easily. Sometimes it might not seem as if telling the truth will pay in the long run, but, at least in countries with a well developed justice system and system of social justice,it does.
    As to the case of indirect lying, the courts consider misleading others by omitting relevant details to be a form of lying, even though an untruth is never directly stated. I have always felt that this indirect form of lying, whether through silence or through misdirection is, at times, a necessary part of parenting in order to protect children from the assault of truths that they are developmentally incapable of handling through any means except through the childish self-defence of denial. To force those kind of truths on them, or to not keep those kind of truths from them (or to not protect them from those kinds of truths) until they are of an age and developmental stage when they are not being emotionally assaulted by them (because they are not yet developmentally able to put them into some sort of reasonable conscous perspective) has always seemed to me to be a form of child abuse, so I have never done it. This seems fair to me, and apparently, in hindsight, it seemed fair to my children. Having said that, I would never “white-lie” like this to my children solely for personal gain, which it seems to me, would be unfair. Again, at some level, children always know when they’re being unfairly lied to…maybe not in the moment, but certainly memory provides the ability to, in hindsight, distinguish that 2+2 didn’t quite add up to four. And whether done sometimes, or oftentimes, if it wasn’t fairly done, it leaves a terrible mark.
    Accordingly, several times over the years, in the face of persistant questioning, I have said, “We’ll discuss this in more detail later on, when “you’re a little older” or “when we’re both ready for the discussion”, “but for now, we will have to leave it at this”. And I made a mental note to return to a discussion on the point at a later date when they were ready for it, beginning with “Do you remember that time when you were about X years old and I said…”, and then I had that discussion, at the later date.
    All of this kind of talk takes more time and effort on the part of a parent. But I can say, from the voice of experience, that it is one of the most valuable parenting practices that I have used.

  7. Here’s two that I quote from my own blog on homeschooling online. Two lies:
    One was when we had a rat problem. I was baiting a mouse trap with peanut butter and cheese and my four year old daughter asked: “Is that so the rat can eat when he’s caught in the trap?â€?
    Fortunately, I was looking down and she couldn’t see the smile/grimmace on my face. “Yes dear.â€?
    OK, fast forward to when she was around eight and one morning she comes into breakfast and announces to me that she’s proved it, the tooth fairy does NOT exist. “Honey, how could you possibly have proved that?â€?
    “I lost a tooth yesterday and put it under my pillow without telling you and this morning, it’s still there.â€?
    “Good try. But you forgot one thing. Who do you think calls the tooth fairy and tells her that it’s time to come? All you did is prove is that the tooth fairy can’t know everything.â€?
    At the time, she smiled and laughed and said “Ohâ€?.
    Oddly, this incident has preyed on her and my mind for years. There’s something there that’s competitive and gamelike which made it stick in both our minds. Also, something about whether she was ready or had to “grow upâ€? then or could she remain childlike a little longer. While she sometimes complains that I tricked her, she seems to be very fond of the story.

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