Parenting rarely works on advice, but here’s one: don’t lie to your child

By: Anupreet Sandhu Bhamra

At my daughter’s school, to drop her off, I saw one of her classmates miserably clinging to his mother. As we waited for the kindergarten teacher to come and take the kids, I politely inquired if the child was feeling okay. The mother said, of late, her son hadn’t been enthusiastic about school.

I thought, probably the kid was just tired, as she had mentioned about his late bedtime; I shrugged it off.

But the child broke into sobs and literally dug into his mother. My daughter tried cheering him up, but soon he got hysterical. I politely asked if she had tried to find out if the kid was having any problem at school – with learning, with a classmate, or with the teacher. She dismissed my concern and said he was just acting up.

Then she told her son to go to the class with his teacher and soon after, she would come get him. I inquisitively looked at her and she whispered to me: “That’s the only way I can trick him to attend school”. But the child had seen through his mother’s daily lying exercise. “Mummy, you are lying, you won’t come back,” he sobbed between huge tears. She answered back with a laugh, “No I am not lying; I will come get you, just now.”

She left her shrieking child with the kindergarten teacher. I felt a knot in my stomach.

I am not judging her.

For I am not the world’s perfect mother:

I don’t have answers to all the questions parenting poses. Like any parent, I go through I-am-doing-great moments and Uh-goodness-I-must-be-the-worst-mother on the planet moments. I seek answers myself – from other parents, in person or online – to learn and draw from the experiences of other parents. I love to connect with parent bloggers who are honest, forthright and write with sincerity, who don’t paint a rosy picture of parenting, who admit their failures (and fatigue) but also celebrate the fun and contentment that comes with raising a child.

I never judge other parents, for I know every child is unique, and a parent knows their child the best. What works for my child might not work for theirs. Sharing experiences is a great way, so we all are free to draw what works for us. So who am I to tell the mother of the little boy what to do? I am sure she is a great parent; I’ve never felt any sense of alarm from her. Probably she is right, her son just wants an excuse to miss school, for whatever reason.

I hate giving parenting advice:

But there is one thing I’d like to say to the mother of that child: please don’t lie to your child, even if he is just five. I am not talking about there-is-no-more-candy lies, but lies that can break the trust and heart of a young child.

I am sure there’s something that is bothering the little mind of your son. He trusts you, his mother, completely – that is why the poor child clings to you every morning and pleads with you not to let him go. You are the best judge to figure out the reason, but I can clearly see you are losing his trust: he already knows his mother lies every morning, because when you say you will come get him, you never do. Your five-year old calls you a liar and you are okay with it?

Well, I am not. That is one promise I’ve made to myself: to try and win the trust of the two little hearts I parent. When I tell my daughter, I will come pick her, I do. When I can’t, I tell her I can’t. She can throw a tantrum all she wants, but I never lie.

There are times I can’t keep a promise, it happens. But it doesn’t happen because I lie about it. If it happens, I apologize, (I really do!) and try and explain to my five-year old why mummy couldn’t keep the promise. I remind her that most of the times adults try, but sometimes, they can’t control situations.

I keep the dialogue running – to build that level of trust where my five-year old knows there is one person she can turn to, when she needs the most – her mother, even to talk about how “frustrating” it was to wait to play at the sand box. For it is trust we seek in people we love – don’t break it by lying.

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Categories: Parenting

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9 replies

  1. One of our kids had separation anxiety at an early age, and it continued in varying degrees for the first few school grades. It is hard to deal with, but that idea of lying in order to trick them into walking into the calssroom is certainly not the answer.

    We followed the same path you are on with your kids. Be up front with them,even if it disappoints them. As you say, they may throw a tantrum, but they won’t call you a liar. Now our two are 20 and 22, and we have a lot of good open discussion with them. Are there things they keep from us? Probably. I don’t tell them everything going on in my life either. But lying as you discuss here is not part of our family dynamic. I can’t imagine how messed up our family would be if it were.

    Thanks for an honest look at honesty here, Sandhu.

    Tim

    • Thanks Tim. Glad to hear you have an open discussion with your kids now that they are adults. And one can’t really predict what’s going to happen in the future, but at least a lying dynamic won’t be a part of the family dialogue. Thank you!

  2. Reblogged this on Dil Se… and commented:
    For all parents..

  3. That’s horrible!!! I agree… There are many different approaches to dealing with things in parenthood, but lying to your kids shouldn’t be one of them!

  4. I learned a valuable lesson about parenting from my younger sister when she was about 5 and I was 12. A doctor told her that a needle wasn’t going to hurt. And it did. She felt betrayed by the doctor. I learned that it’s better to say: “It will hurt but you are strong enough to handle it or “It may hurt but you still need to have the needle. Just take a deep breath.”

    In the case of the boy, it’s probably better to impress upon him that he has to go to school and go from there (assuming that there isn’t actually something deeper going on etc…) than to say you’ll be right back.

  5. I love this post, Sandhu! The truth can be empowering. When we share truths with our children in developmentally appropriate ways, we both benefit and grow from the experience. By the way, I literally just discovered your blog and can’t wait to read more from your perspective. I recently wrote a “love letter” to Vancouver on my blog which can be found here: http://globalwiseparenting.com/2014/05/the-road-trip-that-led-to-a-global-lifestyle/

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