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Lying: when kids don't play fair, neither should you

February 12, 2016 The Wine Time Dad 0 Comments Category : , , , , , , ,

Some may think that lying to children sets a bad precedent, and in some cases, this is absolutely true. Take, for example, the lies we tell our kids to get them to behave. I’m sure you’ve all heard of Santa, the Easter Bunny, and God the Father Almighty, right? Of course you have. Well, for many of us, our initiation into the human art form of lying starts with our early childhood moral education.

When the parental’s righteous anger isn’t enough to scare/shame us into behaving properly, we’re reminded of how God is watching us all the time, even when the lights are off. He just heard every F-word you said under your breath and is shaking her/his head at your dirty, dirty thoughts. Santa is probably watching you most of the time but seems oblivious to the stuffed animal you just fried with a lighter and WD40. We’re not entirely sure what exactly the Easter Bunny can do, but maybe your Easter basket this year will just be a small Tupperware container with some old plastic grass and few jellybeans. Santa, however, will definitely miss your house if you misbehave.

You can redeem yourself if you’re well-behave the month leading up to Xmas, though.

Still, it’s a good thing Santa can’t hear your thoughts like God can…

Or, can he?

Now, whether or not these supernatural entities exist and have the power to do anything to you, we eventually realize how and why parents invent or perpetuate lies about them. It’s a clever and seemingly harmless scam to get us to behave. I don’t know about you but for elementary school me, nothing put the fear of misbehaving into me like possible eternal damnation, or sparse pickings under the ol’ Xmas tree.

Well-played parents.

Sadly these lies lose effectiveness as children age. They can also set a bad precedent. Inventing shit about supernatural or omnipotent beings is dangerous. You may just be stoking their ire, thus causing them to turn their powers of karmic manipulation towards you. Furthermore, no one really knows the minds of God, Santa, and, most certainly, the Easter Bunny.

Meet Frank, the Easter Bunny.
At least we’re made in God’s image and Santa is just a fat man with time manipulation powers. But, that Easter Bunny… How much can you know about a large mutant rabbit that magically delivers Easter baskets to all families participating in his little game? Who here can scrutinize the mind of such a alien creature?

Ah, a hefty topic for another day, perhaps…

What about good lies, though? Surely they exist and serve a beneficial purpose to savvy parents who know how and when to use them:

With an expectant toddler looking up at you, “Daddy is there ano’der cookie up der in the cabinet?”

Deftly pushing the cookie behind some noodles (because daddy wants it for himself) and distracting her with mindless chatter, the lie comes freely, “No, you ate the last cookie yesterday. Remember?”

Yes, this is selfish and my words, untrue, but it’s also true that the toddler doesn’t need another cookie. If she does get it, she’ll skip the healthier foods. If she sees it, she’s going to try finagling it. If I’m implacable, it’ll become a contentious point during mealtime, in which she’ll probably refuse to eat real food. The cookie will infect her mind, consuming her thoughts. Every so often, for the rest of her waking hours, she’ll request it, ramping up her efforts with cuteness. In her mind, successful persuasion is the final outcome, but in my adult mind, where I believe I’ve earned that cookie, that shit ain’t happening. A raging tantrum of disappointment is the only outcome.

With all this in mind, the little white parenting lie comes easy. It’s a blunt but useful countermeasure.

The truth is that when you’re dealing with a toddler, you’re not on a level playing field. Toddlers don’t play fair, and rules are subject to their whimsical wills. She knows that I’m going to say no (treats are special), but she can’t fight the desire of her id. If she sees it, there’s no turning back. You can’t make a toddler “unsee” a goddamn cookie.

In cases like this, or any case you deem in necessary, you’re allowed to cheat by lying. As long as the lie has very little or no long-term objective value, one that might cause a some sort of cognitive rift later on in life, then fuck it, invent away.

“Daddy! Daddy… I wanna check the cabinet.”

“Hey! Do you want to watch TV?”

“Yes, I do!”

See? That’s how you round off a parenting lie, with almost no negative repercussions and all the benefits. By the end of the show, she won’t remember wanting to fact check you. All she’ll remember is that there’s no cookie. No one’s the wiser. Rainbows, sunshine, and unicorns for the rest of the afternoon for both of you.

So, pat yourself on the back you lying sun of a bitch! You just saved yourself from a violent mood shift. And, you’re reinforcing good oral hygiene. You, sir, are fabulous.