You may not admit it but you've probably done it. Parents often lie to their children. You sneak some ice-cream before dinner and then deny it. You tell your boss you can't come in because you have a sore throat—and then take a leisurely day off. You tell them that you didn't inhale. But if we're supposed to lead by example, why do so many parents lie to their children? Moms and Dads often tell their children that lying is unacceptable and not allowed and yet do it themselves.
Parents lie for all different reasons; from lying for the protection of their children, to keeping details about sex, drugs, smoking, death, war and peace? Is it ethical? Hypocritical? Wise? Necessary? Some things to consider: (1) Reasons for lying: Consider why you're lying to your child in the first place. Many parents lie in order to keep their children from being pushed out of their comfort zones prematurely. That's a good reason. After all, information that we give our children should be age-appropriate so that it can be easily understood and processed. Some topics are not meant for little ears and others need to be explained very delicately or in broad brush-strokes. Other parents lie because they're doing something underhanded-- but remember, if you want to teach your children good ethics, you need to practice them as well.
Caution! If your child asks you a question and you tell him that he's too young to talk about such things (i.e. sex, drugs, smoking, etc), be prepared for a possible problem. Mark my words, he'll either (1) find out from another source, (2) become so interested in it that he gets into some trouble (forbidden fruit), or (3) he's already doing it or thinking about doing it and you just missed your opportunity to talk about it with him! (2) Benefits from telling the truth: Telling the truth can also be beneficial in certain situations.
Some children would take their parents' admissions of past mistakes as a point of connection between them. Children can also learn from your past mistakes or the mistakes of others. They also may appreciate and show gratitude for their current lifestyle, opportunities, and support system by knowing what came before them to make it possible. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, children and teens will learn about drugs, sex, war and other touchy topics from someone—make yourself their first and most credible resource. Caution! Remember to make your explanations age-appropriate.
In many cases, it's best if details of crazy parties, early sexual experiences, drug use, and smoking, were left out. Explaining too much in detail might give the kids the impression that you miss what you used to do or that you feel it was a good idea—even if you don't believe that at all. And remember to think about why they might be asking the question they're asking—is it for the purpose of reassurance, basic information, safety, or what? Stay on topic.
Don't allow one small question to turn into a long, drawn-out explanation about something that wasn't even asked. (3) Goals for Child: Think about your goals for your children. If you shelter them, it may backfire. They feel unprepared or lied to—and this could put in question your credibility. On the other hand, too much information can be startling, frightening, or confusing. You must really listen to your child and help him without overwhelming him.
You must teach him integrity, honesty, and trust, without compromising yours. Caution! Telling them all of your past mistakes may make them wonder about your credibility—if you did one unethical thing, did you also do another? In addition, watch those double standards! Telling children not to smoke, while smoking yourself, can be a tough fight to win. Children often have many questions for parents that we don't always know how to answer.
If you're unsure how to handle a touchy situation, get honest with yourself and don't hide. Talk to your Pediatrician, coach or other helping professional.
Known as "The Character Queen," Dr. Robyn Silverman is parenting expert and child development specialist. Her tips-based style makes her a favorite among both parents and teachers. She's the creator of the Powerful Words Character Toolkit, a character education system used in children's programs. For more information or to contact Dr. Robyn, visit her Powerful Parenting Blog at http://www.DrRobynsBlog.com or website at http://wwwDrRobynSilverman.com