Little White Lies

“Everyone tells lies don’t they?”

This was my nine year old son’s answer to a recent conversation we had about telling lies.

“You tell lies sometimes!”

This was his reply when I tried to explain for the tenth time, why lying is not the right decision in any situation.

At this point, his face lit up and he was almost bouncing with glee.

 ” But you tell me to lie sometimes.”

I should have known that I wouldn’t like the answer to the question, but I ploughed on regardless.

“When have I told you to lie?”

“Well, there was that time when you told me to tell L that his picture was nice.  And it wasn’t and that was a lie!”  His face was triumphant.  “And…” now positively leaping with excitement, “You told me not to tell Granny about the present she bought me breaking!”

With a sigh, I thought for a moment about how I deal with this.  It is true.  I do occasionally encourage him to tell ‘little white lies’ but only to save someone else’s feelings.  Is that wrong?

I try to explain to him that sometimes it’s necessary to tell lies, but only tiny ones, if the truth is going to hurt someone or make them feel bad.  He thinks about this for a moment and is about to launch head long into one of his “but” moments and then he smiles and walks away.

In his head, this is a small victory for him, but I can also see how this is very confusing for his curious and developing mind.

The reason that this conversation started in the first place was down to the fact that he had recounted a story to me that he had completely made up.  I forget the details now, but he was talking about something that had happened and even though I do have a terrible memory, I picked him up on the fact that what he had said was a load of rubbish.

It seems to be a conversation that we are having a lot at the moment.  Sometimes it is ‘embellished’ stories, where he is recounting something that has happened and puts his own imaginative spin on it, but other times and it is these that worry me the most, he downright lies about something to get out of trouble, or to get his brother into trouble.  That I don’t like.

Another phrase I am also hearing a lot from him at the moment is “You never believe me!” usually accompanied by a fake cry.  More than once, I have reminded him about the story of the boy who cried wolf and that if he wants me to believe him, then he should always tell the truth.

Back to me though and the fact that I sometimes ‘have’ to tell lies.  Do I?  Really? My lies aren’t evil lies that are going to hurt anyone, they are usually to protect people.  There are the ‘yes, that is a lovely present, thank you so much’ lies.  Then there are the ‘that top, no I’ve had that for years’ lies.  The ‘I’ve got a terrible headache’ lie or the ‘I’m so ill, I can’t come to work’ lie.

All fairly harmless, aren’t they?  We also lie to our children to make their childhoods more special.  Those sorts of lies are perfectly acceptable though, aren’t they?

What is the alternative?  If we went through life telling the truth in every single situation, we probably wouldn’t be very popular.  A lovely lady that I work with, told me the other day that I needed to lose a few pounds.  She isn’t English and so I could excuse her comment as maybe she didn’t understand that it isn’t really the thing to say to someone.  But then again, maybe her honesty is a great thing; she isn’t telling me anything I don’t know already.  My mother in law is someone else who tells it like it is.  Over the years, I have learnt to get used to her comments and not to take them to heart, but it can still feel like an insult and a half when someone tells you something that you really don’t want to hear.

As for R, I am trying to quietly work on him on the subject of lying and what is acceptable and not acceptable.  If he has done something wrong, then I want him to be honest and to tell me the truth.  If he thinks that I look awful, then maybe I would rather not know.

How do you deal with your children lying to you?

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