The Lies We Tell Our Kids

by | Jul 23, 2020 | KidZone, Stephanie Holmberg

Bubblegum was a big deal when I was a kid.  My favourite brand, Bazooka, was packaged as singles for 5-cents each. It came with a unique comic strip inside sharing the adventures of Bazooka Joe that all the kids in the neighbourhood would collect and trade for fun. If you have ever had the privilege of enjoying a piece of Bazooka gum, your initial chews may have been like mine… heavenly sweetness. But, after about a minute or two of intense chewing, the sugar would begin to wear off, leaving me with a sticky, tasteless bubblegum pink mass. At that point, only three options remained: spit it out, swallow it, or add another piece.  I’d like to tell you that I most often spit it out, but no, I would usually either add another piece or end up swallowing it much to my mother’s disdain. My mother devised a strategy to stop this behaviour by expounding the old wives’ tale to me: “Don’t swallow that! Don’t you know it takes 7-years to digest a piece of gum?!” My young mind began to add up how full my stomach must be from years of bubble gum swallowing and after realizing that I basically must be full of Bazooka, I decided that the garbage bin needed to be my first choice for now on. As an adult I now know the truth: the synthetic portion of chewing gum is indigestible to the human body but it does not just sit in your stomach for several years. It goes through our digestive system and exits like everything else.
I think if we are all honest, most of us have been guilty of saying things to our kids that have been untruthful with the hope that it would illicit a better behaviour. Someone coined the phrase, “Pinocchio Parenting” to describe this type of parenting style. Here are some more examples:
  • “I tell my kid when the ice cream truck plays its song it is out of ice cream.”
  • “When my 3-year old’s beta fish died, I took her to the pet section at Walmart, pointed to a similar fish, and said, ‘What’s Troy doing here? Come on, Troy; we’re taking you back home.'”
  • “I tell my kids who can’t read yet a sign in a store says, ‘No arguing.’ Or ‘No whining.'”
  • “I tell my son that when he lies, a red dot appears on his forehead that only his parents can see. It goes away when he tells the truth.”
  • “I have my 5-year old, 7-year old, and 8-year old step-daughter convinced the smoke detectors are actually Santa-cams. He’s always watching, in every room.”
So, is it ever ok to tell a lie to our kids? Aren’t white lies harmless or trivial? Isn’t it okay to tell a lie to avoid hurting someone’s feelings? Is this a grey area?
Let’s look at what the Bible has to say.

Just as damaging as a madman shooting a deadly weapon is someone who lies to a friend and then says, ‘I was only joking.’

Proverbs 26: 18-20

So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbours the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.

Ephesians 4:25

There is no grey area when it comes to lying. We should never lie to our children. Why? Because lies erode trust. Our kids find security in truth. When we begin with a foundation of trust, our children will always feel that we are a safe place to land.
Here are some helpful suggestions to build a strong foundation of trust with your children:
  1. Deliver honesty with gentleness. Sometimes overloading a child with details is too much for them to handle. Be age appropriate and share only what is helpful.
  2. Don’t be afraid to let your child deal with consequences. Protecting your child from the realities of wrong choices only hinders them.
  3. Instead of using a false threat/lie to get a desired behaviour, deal with issue head on and follow through with fair consequences.
  4. Don’t break promises. As a parent you should only make promises that are reasonable to be kept.
Your children don’t like to be lied to and neither do you. Parenting is not about taking the easy out. We have to be intentional because our children deserve our honesty.
Truth + Love = Firm Foundation

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About the Author: stephanie holmberg

Stephanie is a wife, mother, pastor, and friend who is passionate about seeing people live authentic, purpose-filled lives. When not working alongside her amazing kidmin team, you will find her at home spending time with her family, snuggling her furry friend Milo, or out exploring all the amazing places Edmonton has to offer.