10 White Lies I Tell My Kids

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    Lies I tell my kids I believe in being honest with my children. If they ask questions, I try to give them truthful answers. I don’t dumb things down unnecessarily. But there are some situations where a small lie can be a valid parenting choice: sometimes to spare children’s feelings, and sometimes just to get through the day. Here are 10 slight stretches of the truth that I’ve been known to tell my kids from time to time.

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    1. We weren’t fighting, we were just talking.

    We weren’t fighting, we were just talking. I’m sure the kids can tell from my tone that the conversation isn’t pleasant. But this is a way of ending the discussion. The last thing I want to do is pull my kids into a parental argument. Next thing you know, they’ll be taking sides ... and they might not take mine.

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    2. I did see that somersault, and it was awesome.

    I did see that somersault, and it was awesome. Let’s face it, by the 37th living room gymnastic feat, one’s attention span gets challenged. But you can’t exactly tell your children that their performances aren’t riveting. Also, my guilt about lying about the time I didn’t look will probably make me pay more attention to #38.

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    3. You can’t play with my phone, I need it for work.

    You can’t play with my phone, I need it for work. Remember back in the day when communication devices were just for communicating and not for playing Angry Birds, popping fake bubble wrap, or driving racecars? Your kids don’t.

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    4. Sleep helps you grow.

    Sleep helps you grow. Sleep is not my kids’ strong suit. There is not much I haven’t tried in efforts to get them more of it. This inspirational yarn isn’t even entirely untrue. But it also doesn’t work very well (at least it didn’t when I tried it).

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    5. Food makes you strong.

    Food makes you strong. Kids can be surprisingly responsive to this little line. Mine are especially into hearing the specific strengths they may receive from individual foods. But to be honest, they still only eat the foods if they actually like them.

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    6. Soda is a grown-up drink.

    Soda is a grown-up drink. I am not a sugar fascist. But I’d rather have my kids eat sweets than drink them without even noticing they’re doing it. It’s not like they’re not going to ask for dessert after downing those 35 grams. Warning: If I see your kids drinking Coke and my kids ask why, I may say something unflattering under my breath about your parenting choices. I apologize in advance.

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    7. Maybe we’ll buy one of those toys another time.

    Maybe we’ll buy one of those toys another time. By maybe, I mean perhaps in some alternative plane of time and space. You never know, hell could freeze over and I could decide that a Baby Alive doll is a good idea. Does my four-year-old need to know that the probability is just about zero?

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    8. Okay, your five minutes are up.

    Okay, your five minutes are up. In my family, by the time the five-minute call has been made, we’re already twenty minutes late. Fudging the minutes between countdown announcements is a way to make up for lost time ... until they can actually tell time.

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    9. I’m not upset, I’m just tired.

    I’m not upset, I’m just tired. Angry, anxious, upset: All these things can be confusing or disturbing to children. But tired is a benign, totally understandable excuse for crankiness. Sometimes it’s better to leave out the details and go with something they can relate to instead of something big, scary and adult.

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    10. Nothing bad is going to happen.

    Nothing bad is going to happen. Existential uncertainty is uncomfortable business. But kids really need to know that they’re safe — and in general, they are, at least as far as we know. Children need to be able to trust their parents to develop trust in others and in the world. The fact that none of us can predict or control the future is something they will come to understand soon enough on their own.

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