Ask Me Anything, Categories, Family, Parenting, Wellbeing

“Is It Ever Okay to Lie to Your Child?”

With this new series, my intention is to help foster and nurture an open and profound bond between father and daughter, one that transcends the awkwardness of puberty. (I wrote about it in more detail here.)

And in that spirit, I’ve agreed that once a week I will answer – honestly – any question my husband puts to me.

So, here’s what hubby has come up with for me this week…

Hubby: I heard something on the radio that got me thinking. Obviously this one could equally apply to boys, but either way I think it warrants discussion. And it’s something that maybe doesn’t have a ‘right’ answer, but I’m interested in what you think. So, is it okay to lie to your kid in some circumstances, to save their feelings? Fo example, if they’re not a looker and they ask you straight? is it ever okay to lie to your child?

Me: Hmmm, loaded question! I have a few thoughts on this one…

Firstly, the point is that our children look to us with an almost godlike reverence, right? I wrote about a pretty epic example of what I mean in this guest post. So it could be argued that by not being completely truthful with our impressionable little ones, we are failing them in a very fundamental way.

And yet…

The vast majority of parents in the developed world lie to their babies from a very young age, and do their best to keep that lie magic alive for as long as they possibly can. I am, of course, talking about Father Christmas, but he is just the most popular and influential of several examples I could have given. And it is so accepted – and expected – in our culture, that society complicitly reinforces the dishonesty – both passively (Christmas displays), and actively (visit the ‘genuine’ Santa Claus).

While one can’t dispute it’s deceptive, guess what I’ll be doing this December? Yep, I’ll be exposing our daughter to those blatant lies with the best of ‘em. And in my opinion, it will be with the best of them, because we are so doing to bring a little enchantment to their lives.

I intend to shield my children from the horrors of the world for as long as I’m able to; they have their whole lives for those realities.

My idea of being a good mum is maintaining the intrigue and mystery of fairies and unicorns and imaginary friends – until they lose their childish wonder.

And that day will be a sad one.

Back to the matter at hand… Luckily, most parents are blinded to their children’s appearance because they wear rose-tinted glasses (whether they’re necessary or not)! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all. So just because your kinder may not be classically beautiful, there’s every chance you would consider them so all the same. Naturally, I don’t believe this to be the case with our lovely daughter (she’s the most angelic child to ever have graced this earth) so I’m having to answer this hypothetically.

So hypothetically, supposing Pixie looked less cherubic and more gargoyle-esque – would I expect you to tell her so if she asked you?

Allow me to quickly share a miserable anecdote from my own childhood (you know it already, my readers don’t!).

My parents divorced when I was seven, and though I had previously worshipped my dad, our relationship thereafter became strained. Then, during an evening out with family and friends when I was a teenager, a flippant remark he made left me completely humiliated.

He told us all that I had been an ugly child.

My dad had indulged in a few drinks, which probably accounted for his lack of tact, and with hindsight I don’t believe there was spite or malice intended; in fact, I think it was intended as a back-handed compliment. But the damage was done – I was bereft.

Shortly after our relationship broke down completely, only being repaired when I was planning my wedding. (For those who are curious, he attended but did not give me away or make a speech.)

My point is, despite being sure my dad has said lovely things to me on numerous other occasions, it is his negative words that had such a profound and lasting effect on me. We’re all inclined to recall the insult instead of the praise; but coming from somebody you hold in such high regard – or in whom you wish nothing more than to elicit pride – it’s heartbreaking.

So, should you lie? Based on what I’ve said, you’ll probably think I’m going to say yes. The trouble is, your child will see straight through it if you can’t say it with conviction.

How, then, to deal with this conundrum and retain your integrity?

There are plenty of people in this world who look beautiful, but I don’t think they are beautiful – because they’re vile. And so, I would suggest being honest, and appraising your child not solely based on their appearance, but rather on account of the goodness in their heart; their kindness, compassion, generosity, and manners; their willingness to forgive.

If you can look at your offspring and see these attributes, then you are blessed with a beautiful child. (And if you fail to see that, then it says more about what’s reflected in your heart than in your eyes.)

Like this? You can check out more of my hubby’s ponderings (and my attempts to answer them) here.

28 Comments

  1. Emma

    March 15, 2016 at 9:38 am

    certainly interesting thoughts. I agree with looking and being beautiful – big difference.

    1. Kate

      March 17, 2016 at 7:43 pm

      Thanks for reading and commenting Emma x

  2. This Mum's Life

    March 15, 2016 at 6:59 pm

    This is definitely an interesting topic, and one that I think about often, then file firmly in the back of my head where I don’t have to think about it for a while! Yes, I’m all about the harmless lies, like you said, let’s make the enchantment last as long as we can, because, well, there’s nothing really enchanting about being an adult is there?
    I can resonate with what you said about your dad. I wanted to be a dancer growing up, and my dad worked hard to pay for me to go to extra summer schools, master classes, travel to seminars and competitions. But he kept a constant eye on what I ate, and would openly tell me that I was eating too much, only the weak can’t control what they’re eating etc, and I hated him for it. Now he is mortified by how much his words affected me, and says that he only said those things to keep me positive that I needed to look good to do well. But it took a long time for us to rebuild our relationship.
    And I firmly believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I’ve had some friends in the past who were physically beautiful, but with ugly souls. All I see now when I think of them is that ugliness.
    Thanks for sharing with #bigpinklink!

    1. Kate

      March 17, 2016 at 7:50 pm

      It’s sad how the things we are told by our parents can affect us so deeply, usually without any malice on their part. It makes me want to try all the harder to ensure my husband and I are careful not to do the same with our daughter.

      Thanks for commenting x

  3. laura dove

    March 15, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    Really interesting post. I lie to my children all the time about the small things (the white lies which all parents tell!) but the big lies, never. Thanks for sharing this with us #bigpinklink
    laura dove recently posted…Do you believe?My Profile

    1. Kate

      March 17, 2016 at 7:52 pm

      Yes, ultimately I think white lies are acceptable. x

  4. justsayingmum

    March 16, 2016 at 7:50 am

    Firstly, I must just say that I really enjoyed reading this post. I think for enchantment purposes we must never squash a child’s dreams and magic – we have to keep them alive for as long as possible – such enchantment is rare in many aspects of life for many sadly so if a few little deviations from the truth create a happy childhood then I’m not going to disagree. I feel for you regarding your father’s statement – that would hurt but all of our experiences shape us and it’s probably a strong factor in making you the wonderful mindful parent you are today #BloggersClubUK
    justsayingmum recently posted…I’m so done with teenagers this week!My Profile

    1. Kate

      March 17, 2016 at 7:56 pm

      Thanks for your lovely comments Helen. I agree about squashing our children’s dreams. And I hope you’re right about being a mindful parent, I am trying and writing this series seems to keep me focused on it! 🙂 x

  5. Catie: An Imperfect Mum

    March 16, 2016 at 7:59 am

    What a great idea for a series. Your hubby posed a really interesting question too. I love your quote; My idea of being a good mum is maintaining the intrigue and mystery of fairies and unicorns and imaginary friends – until they lose their childish wonder.
    I feel that way too. I am desperately trying to keep hold of that wonder as my boys are growing up.

    1. Kate

      March 17, 2016 at 7:57 pm

      Thanks for your lovely comments Catie, I hope you’ll join us again in the future x

  6. Kerry-Ann

    March 16, 2016 at 8:34 am

    The beautiful thing about children is there ability to see possibility in everything and if tales of Santa Clause and the Easter bunny will enable them to hold on to that for a little bit longer then I’m all for it. Great post, thanks for sharing! #BloggerClubUK

    1. Kate

      March 17, 2016 at 7:57 pm

      Thanks so much, I hope you’ll be back again! x

  7. Mimiroseandme

    March 16, 2016 at 8:50 am

    What an interesting post one that I will remember that’s for sure. For me as a parent of a toddler I would have to say that white lies are acceptable but the bigger lies not so much. I guess it’s all based on how your deliver your response. It’s best to be honest upfront without any malice because that is just hurtful! #BloggersClubUK

    1. Kate

      March 19, 2016 at 7:57 am

      Thanks so much, I’m glad you liked it. 😊 I agree delivery is everything. X

  8. Fran

    March 16, 2016 at 10:27 am

    this is a really interesting question. It got me thinking. We lie to our children all the time. I mean its essential part of raising our children to be confident, proud and self loving people. When my daughter comes downstairs after she got dressed all by herself and looking at me with the smug “Well? What do you think?” I am not going to tell her she looks like she got dressed in the dark. I won’t tell my kids that the painting looks like a scribble and i have no idea what it is. I am going to praise them, encourage them at all times. Unicorn, Fairies, the Easter bunny and Santa are huge part in our kids lives and imagination. Yes, so I would have to say it is vital to lie to your kids. There comes an age and a time when honesty becomes vital, especially when it comes to big things, but details of honesty always has to be age appropriate. just my 2 cents, 🙂 loved the post.

    1. Kate

      March 19, 2016 at 7:58 am

      Thanks so much Fran, and I think you’re absolutely right x

  9. Debbie

    March 16, 2016 at 5:37 pm

    Hi Kate, I was determined to get it right this time!

    I believe there are different kinds of lies; ones that are pure evil, ones that are told to protect and those that are told to maintain a level of magic and innocence and working on that basis I don’t think that some lies are that harmful… To this day my children aged 16 and 19 in the ‘magic’ of Christmas (as do I).

    However, saying that if one of mine were to ask if one of mine were to ask if they were a looker, I’d ask them what they consider a looker to be? Like you said beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder and there are plenty of stunning looking people in the world with personalities that make them truly ugly people.

    After having let them think a little, I might answer – ”Everyone is a ‘looker’, it just depends what you are looking for. Your looks are what make you unique, so embrace them. Focus on being you”.
    Debbie recently posted…Shiza Cross, KampiMy Profile

    1. Kate

      March 19, 2016 at 8:02 am

      Hi Debbie, thanks for coming back and commenting again. 😊 And please don’t worry, all is forgiven!

      Great answer! X

  10. Mess and Merlot

    March 16, 2016 at 8:58 pm

    As a parent I find myself constantly questioning whether what I say/do is going to have a detrimental effect on my children later in life! My kids do ask a lot of tricky questions but I find they are pretty accepting of my very basic, but as honest as is appropriate, answers -for now anyway! #BloggerClubUK
    Mess and Merlot recently posted…Why am I blogging, really? 10 good reasons.My Profile

    1. Kate

      March 19, 2016 at 8:04 am

      I’m sure we all question ourselves like that, and I’m sure it will only get harder as they get older and ask more difficult questions! But sounds as though you handle it right, it’s what I intend to do too x

  11. Step by Step Mom

    March 17, 2016 at 9:46 am

    when i was a young child i remember asking my mother if i was beautiful because i have met some mean people on my childhood, that make e feel bad about myself, and she always said yes, and i hated her for that, i thought that she as only saying that because i was her daughter and through her eyes i’ll always be beautiful, Even today i don’t know if were her ‘mother eyes’ talking or i was truly a beautiful child. xx. ##BloggerClubUK

    1. Kate

      March 19, 2016 at 8:07 am

      That’s very sad. But surely better than for her to say the opposite? Trust me when I tell you how incredibly painful it is to hear a parent tell you how ugly. You *should* be beautiful in your parents eyes because of the love they have for you. So if you’re not, then it says something pretty awful about how they feel about you, in my opinion. X

  12. Anita Cleare

    March 17, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    There is telling the ‘truth’ and there is damaging someone. If that’s the choice then the truth needs to be redefined! #coolmumclub

    1. Kate

      March 19, 2016 at 8:08 am

      Couldn’t agree more!

  13. MMT

    March 17, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    What a thought provoking read…I am really trying to encouragae my daughter (s) that beauty is about whats on the inside, but as they grow up I know that challenge will become harder. As Roald Dahl says – ‘if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely’ Love that quote x
    Thanks for linking up with #coolmumclub
    MMT recently posted…#coolmumclub Linky week 20My Profile

    1. Kate

      March 19, 2016 at 8:11 am

      I’d forgotten it, but what a lovely quote that is! X

  14. Becky, Cuddle Fairy

    March 18, 2016 at 11:33 am

    Santa was the firs thing that popped into my head when I started reading your post. It is awful to tell lies like that – and the tooth fairy & easter bunny. I feel bad because my children believe me because I don’t lie to them otherwise. I do try my best to give them honest answers. I agree there’s no point in insulting a child as it’s what they will remember. But honesty about how things work or that kind of thing is important. Thanks so much for sharing with us at #bloggerclubuk x
    Becky, Cuddle Fairy recently posted…Irish Fashion Innovation Awards 2016My Profile

    1. Kate

      March 19, 2016 at 8:13 am

      I agree, but I won’t even feel bad about the white lies – because for me, magic is what makes a childhood! X

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