When Parents Fib: When is it OK to Tell a White Lie? Share +

Posted by: coronadosafe 4 years ago

“If you don’t eat your vegetables, you’ll get nightmares.” “Fido was old, honey, and old doggies go to live on farms far away where they can play.” If you use little fibs like these to get your child to behave or feel better, you’re among a large majority who practice “parenting by lying,” according to two recent studies by the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and the University of Toronto. What’s more, the findings show that even parents who prize being honest with their preschoolers resort to this tactic. No harm, no foul? College students who were part of the research reported mixed feelings: Some laughed when recalling the little white lies their parents once told them, while others were still upset over being misled, says UCSD study researcher and psychology professor Gail D. Heyman, PhD. “I want parents to appreciate what a complex situation this is when a child finds out a parent is lying after being told to always tell the truth,” she says. This sends the mixed message that honesty can be turned off and on when convenient. Still, telling it like it is isn’t always the solution, warns Dr. Heyman. If a child does messy artwork, for example, a parent shouldn’t tell him he has no talent. “You can give the basic idea without filling in all the gory details,” she explains. “Parents should be encouraging, but you also want your children to feel they can trust you.” 

Lessons in Honesty

You can use the truth as easily as lies to get your child on board. Dr. Gail Heyman suggests these techniques:

Give real reasons. Rather than fibbing to encourage veggie eating, let him know eating healthfully can help him grow big and have strong bones for running and playing—reasons that can really motivate him.

** Explain yourself.** If, say, you receive an awful gift but say you love it to avoid hurting your aunt’s feelings, help your child understand why you didn’t tell the truth.

Try truthful fantasy. Make it clear that you’re using make-believe as encouragement. During cleanup, for example, have your child imagine that the toy box is a big monster that will gobble up all the toys. 

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