As parents, it can be tempting to use petty little lies to avoid conflict with your children, especially those in their terrible twos or thunderous threes. When your kids want more chips, sometimes it’s easier to say, “They’re all gone” instead of, “No. We’re about to have dinner.”
I get it. I’ve done it. But here is why I stopped. This strategy fails in the long term, and the long game is where it is at when it comes to raising children. Kids are much smarter than we give them credit for, and the last thing I want to do as a parent is confuse them when they catch me telling a half-truth.
I don’t want my kids to start second guessing my statements when I talk to them. Yet this is exactly what we do when we tell our kids little white lies to make things simple. Children learn their communication skills from their caretakers, so it is crucial to set the right example early. Based on our techniques, our children will learn to process communication in two different ways: literal or implied.
Option A – Literal Communicator
This is a person that as a child observed that what their parents said, they followed through on. When the parents said the child would get a reward for listening or that they would go to the zoo this weekend, there was follow through. Therefore, the child learned that people mean what they say. So, when they are older, and someone says, “I like that jacket that you have on.” They can receive the compliment at face value and offer their thanks.
Option B – Implied Communicator
This is a person that as a child observed a disconnect between what their parents said and what they did. When parents, in an attempt to pacify the child or to avoid conflict, promise things like going places or receiving rewards without follow through, the child learns that people do not always mean what they say. As adults, children raised in this environment begin to look for the hidden or implied meaning when communicating with others. So, when someone gives them a compliment and says, “I like that jacket that you have on today,” they immediately start asking themselves did they not like my jacket yesterday?
It all starts innocently enough. A grandparent promising to see the grandchildren tomorrow, even though they are not coming. Or parents promising their kids they will do something later, all too well knowing there is no time to complete the task. Often this is done to avoid the immediate conflict with a child, but at what cost?
Learning how to be honest with your children starts early and impacts how they learn to process information. It’s incredible how simple comments can have long lasting effects.