“There are times that when truth and kindness conflict, one ought to choose kindness, especially when a little honesty is better than a lot.” —Leroy Jack Syrop
If I was the betting type, and I am, I’d wager most parents have stretched the truth a time or two with their kids. It’s probably not the best strategy to take in any given situation, but at times it’s completely acceptable.
It has to be.
Sometimes the only way to get around going through the drive-through is to apologetically explain that they have run out of toys for the kid’s meals. And really, without the toy, what’s the point?
Even as we harp on our kids about honesty and never ever telling a lie, we can still be realists.
We can tap into their conscience with our moral lessons, pat their heads and send them on their way, hoping that when they do eventually lie to us, they’ll at least feel guilty about it.
In her book “Child-Wise,” author Cathy Rindner Tempelsman said “The three-year-old who lies about taking a cookie isn’t really a ‘liar’ after all. He simply can’t control his impulses. He then convinces himself of a new truth and, eager for your approval, reports the version that he knows will make you happy.”
And that’s basically what we do as adults. Well, maybe not exactly that. We know we’re lying and can control our impulses. We don’t actually convince ourselves our lie is a new truth and we don’t necessarily report the version that makes anyone happy. We report the version that makes us happy and is most likely to ward off a tantrum or keep the peace.
But the lies we tell our kids aren’t always for convenience sake. Sometimes it’s a teaching tool. It’s our job to explain that some lies are okay without sounding like a complete hypocrite.
Such as opening a present they don’t like or didn’t want. They should still smile and say thank you instead of rolling their eyes and throwing it across the room. Small lies that teach respect and courtesy—these lies are OK to tell.
In return, we tell bright-eyed piano students how great their original song sounds or gush over toddlers who have just dressed themselves for the first time—in a tank top, rain boots, pajama bottoms, stocking cap and ballerina skirt. Small lies that make them smile—these lies are OK to tell.
And I should note that it’s also OK to tell them the cookie dough Dibs are all gone, when they’re actually stuffed behind the frozen meat in the far back corner of the freezer. (If you don’t know what Dibs are, go to the ice cream section and buy some. You’ll be lying to your kids in no time.)
As long as there’s a moral foundation to raise our kids on, strategic embellishments are nothing to lose sleep over.
Sometimes stretching reality a little can actually encourage sleep.
My 4-year-old recently became afraid of monsters coming into our house and hiding in her closet. I opened her closet door, left the light on, and assured her that there is no way monsters were in our house. And I knew this because they never come on this side of Main Street.
Now, for those over on the west side, you’re on your own.