My answer to this would be that it very much depends on the child, the situation and the lie being told. When I’m talking to J I don’t really ever need to lie or make things up, most things need to be factual and instructional. B on the other hand, he’s a whole different entity. He asks so many questions, digs deep into the minutiae of things and relentlessly asks why to every explanation of an explanation of a reason. At times I try to explain and keep explaining. Other times I say ‘because it is’ or ‘because they do’ which I know is not an answer, but he drives me to it eventually and my patience just runs out. Anyone who knows B will understand where I’m coming from. Once you’ve heard why for the tenth time when explaining the same thing, you feel like tearing off your own ears and throwing them out of the window of the moving car!
Here are a few of the lies I have told to try to subvert the inevitable twenty questions or ongoing whining to get his way:
- The soft play is closed now. Why? He asks. They close early on this day because they need to tighten all the screws, to make sure none of it falls down when children are playing in it. (I hope this will scare him into never wanting to go there again. Unfortunately it doesn’t!)
- We can’t phone gran just now. Why? Her phone is broken and is away getting fixed because she’s had to talk on it too much. She is getting another one delivered soon. (He talks the ears off all of his grans and sometimes I like to give them a break!)
- We can’t go to the park just now. Why? They are having to take down all of the swings to fix them and put them back up, no one is allowed in while they are doing it in case they get tangled in the chains. (Note: it is usually pouring with rain at the time but this never suffices as an explanation!)
- You can’t have sweets for breakfast/lunch/dinner. Why? Your stomach will get sore, your teeth will rot & fall out and then you will never be able to eat sweets again! This doesn’t seem to bother him so I’ve also tried – The rules on the back of the sweet packet say that little boys are not allowed to eat sweets as meals, or the tooth fairy doesn’t give them any money for their teeth falling out and the shop keeper gets told they are never allowed to buy sweets ever again!
- There’s no butter on your sandwiches. ‘But you said you had put butter on them!’ I forgot that I hadn’t put butter on them. I actually put butter on my sandwiches and not yours. ‘But you don’t have any sandwiches!’ I ate them before I called you in for yours. (There is butter on his sandwiches but he didn’t check, hasn’t tasted it and I don’t want to make new ones!)
There are many more! All told in the name of my sanity and the best interests of everyone’s welfare.
Here’s my check list of some situations where lying can be acceptable (and some where it really is the only option you have!)
- When you’re going somewhere they don’t want to go (like the shops or home) instead of somewhere you had mentioned you might take them later (like the park or soft play.) In this instance lying is the only option. You can’t tell them you just can’t be bothered any more or have more important things that need done, so you should never have mentioned the words ‘soft play’ in the first place.
- When they need to go home from gran’s when they want to stay over. To be honest, I ask why to this too. Why can’t they just spend alternate nights at gran’s, they’re happy there?!
- When they need to stay at gran’s (so of course they don’t want to!) It’s never ok to tell them the real reason, they never find it acceptable.
- When you’ve forgotten something they asked for from the shops or haven’t brought something you said you would. I mean if you don’t lie, you just look like the most terrible, thoughtless mother!
- When you’re going out for dinner without them. B does not accept this and always wants to come. My husband and I have appointments and meetings at strange times of night. Luckily he’s too young to know a real concept of time at the moment and can’t pull us up on this one!
I’m sure there are many other acceptable reasons and occasions. Please feel free to add yours in the comments. Let’s all help each other keep the whys at bay!