Lies we tell our children

9 May 2018

Dear Friend,

When it comes to lying are there really different types of lies? Is lying ever acceptable?

Different theories of ethics approach lying in different ways. Consequentialist theories are concerned with the consequences of lying.  A good lie is one where, the result of lying is better than telling the truth. In contrast, a dutybased ethicist would argue that, even if  the consequences of lying are better, it is still morally wrong.

I must be a consequentialist and I believe that most parents are too. I would argue that Parents tell white lies (good lies); to encourage, to discourage, to warn of danger, to embellish stories and to save their child's feelings.

But in her book, The Key to Calm, Clinical Psychologist Linda Blaire said,
If you tell a lie, you’re almost always doing so to further your own interests, and/or to avoid feeling uncomfortable. Even when you think you’re being kind...

Maybe there is something in that?! I like to think that I am a honourable person but maybe some lies are for my own benefit rather than my children's.

The lies I have told my children...
  • If you eat all your dinner then you'll grow big like daddy 
  • Eat your carrots and they will help you see in the dark 
  • We're almost there 
  • There are no cookies/sweets/crisps left 
  • Your goldfish went to live with Nemo 
  • We'll see 
  • I don't know where your toy/ipad/music player is! 
  • I've run out of batteries 
  • The injection/cream/dentist won't hurt! 
  • I'm leaving now and if you don't come I'm leaving you 
  • Babies are delivered by storks 
  • The cow is having a piggyback
  • I always know when you are lying 
  • The park is closed 
  • Teachers and especially mummy teachers have eyes in the back of our heads 
  • Let's not even get started on the whole Santa/Easter bunny thing 
  • I always know when you are lying

There is no golden rule when it comes to the ethics of lying to your kids.

The expert advice is to give age-appropriate responses, keep their best interest at the forefront of all your decisions, and be prepared for the future consequences of any and everything you say.

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