Is it ever ok to lie to your child? A tricky one, for sure, but one most parents will have to consider at some point.
Back when I first started this blog I had a series where once a week my husband would ask me a ‘women’s‘ question, and I’d do my best to answer it honestly. The idea was to help foster and nurture an open and profound bond between father and daughters, one that transcends the awkwardness of puberty. (I wrote about it in more detail here.)
Here’s the question my husband put to me:
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? For 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 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 – expected even – in our culture, that society are complicit in reinforcing the dishonesty – both passively (Christmas displays), and actively (visit the ‘genuine’ Santa Claus).
Is It Ever OK to Lie to Your Kids? Maybe
While one can’t dispute it’s deceptive, guess what we’ll be doing this December? Yep, we’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 our children from the horrors of the world for as long as possible; 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 when that day comes, it will be a sad one.
Back to the specific question… 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 child may not be classically beautiful, there’s every chance you would consider them so all the same.
Supposing Pixie or Elfin looked less cherubic – would I expect you to tell them so if they asked you?
Allow me to quickly share a miserable anecdote from my own childhood (you know it already, 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 and in whom you wish nothing more than to elicit pride – it’s heartbreaking.
Is It Ever Ok to Lie to Your Child?
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.)