“Telling a white lie here and there never hurts anyone. We all tell little lies sometimes. If a lie doesn’t hurt anyone then it’s okay to lie sometimes.”
We have all had these thoughts go through our minds when we aren’t being entirely honest with others. After all, telling a small lie is pretty harmless, isn’t it?
It might seem that way but, frequently lying to people around you can slowly start eroding the relationship you have with them.
Being lied to can break the trust between two people, which is the foundation for any relationship and it can be extremely difficult to gain back.
Experts say some of the worst lies are the ones we tell our children because they can have a long-term effect on their personalities.
Children are just beginning to get a grip on their moral compass and learning the difference between right and wrong. So, it sends a very conflicting message to their brain when their parents are telling them to always tell the truth but are displaying dishonesty by lying themselves.
Why do parents lie?
There can be many reasons why parents choose to lie rather than tell the truth to their children. Notice that I said ‘choose’, because telling the truth or lying is essentially a choice that we all make when we speak. Some reasons why parents lie are:
- They want to protect their children from the ugly truths of life.
- Their kids’ questions are too complicated to answer.
- They want to keep an element of fantasy and wonder for their children. (Santa, Tooth fairy etc.)
- They want to escape/avoid doing something such as saying the store is closed so they don’t have to take their child.
- They are trying to hide their own mistakes or that they don’t know the real answer.
- They use it as a tactic to improve their child’s behaviour like, ’I’ll leave you at the store if you don’t behave.’
- They use it to control or make their child comply.
How does lying damage your relationship with your child?
Now, whatever reason that it may be and however good it sounds at the time, it’s not the best idea to lie to your child. Those little lies can actually be quite harmful in the long run for your children and for the relationship they have with you.
When kids figure out that their parents lie to them, they begin to question a lot of the other things their parents have told them. Like how great they look, what a good kid they are or how much they are loved.
When that bond of trust is broken frequently, alarm bells go off in the child’s head every time their parents tell them something because they are unsure whether it’s true or not.
Secondly, parents are their children’s biggest influencers and they learn from their parents’ modeled behaviour. Experts say, if children see their parents being dishonest, chances are they will pick up on this and eventually learn to lie too. This could lead to delinquent, aggressive or antisocial behaviour as they grow up.
What can you do about it?
Building a relationship on honesty and trust can’t happen overnight, especially if there has been frequent lying taking place in the household.
- Begin by talking to your kids about the importance of telling the truth. For smaller kids, you can use stories and role-plays to illustrate your point.
- Be a role model and curb off telling any types of lies to your kids. Lies, whether big or small have a similar effect on children.
- Reward your kids when they tell the truth and let them know that they won’t be in trouble if they tell the truth. Let them know it’s okay to make a mistake as long as you don’t lie about it.
- Really listen to them and look for reasons why they were lying in the first place. This will help you find out why they lied and ways to avoid it next time.
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About the Founder
Internationally Recognised Emotional Literacy & Mindfulness Expert Tenille Bentley is the founder of The Emotional Literacy and Mindfulness Academy and the author of the children’s emotional literacy books with Jazzy and Pinky and The Energy Ball. Giving children a wonderful introduction to understanding their emotions and what do with them.
Tenille has been featured on Channel 9 News and other major outlets. Her work has been recognised in the community by The Governor of Western Australia, The Prime Minister of Australia and Australian Financial Review.
As a child she experienced severe anxiety and emotional traumas as well as bullying which left her feeling isolated, and unable to understand why she was feeling the way she did. As an adult this impacted her ability to make healthy decisions because she didn’t have the tools to understand her emotions.
Which is why she is passionate about equipping parents with the tools to support their children to make better decisions in life and healthy ones to help support and create a balanced home life.