We all want to make sure that our children don’t grow up to be liars. We go to great lengths to instill within them a sense of the value of the truth. We even agree to mitigate punishments for their transgressions if only they will come clean and confess the truth. “The truth will set you free [from time out],” we tell them in so many words. We lead them to resist the temptation of the lie in every way, except by example.
If our children knew how often we lie to them, and how easily we do it, they would never tell the truth again. In fact, we manage our children largely through deception. We do it without batting an eye, and without the tiniest pang to our consciences. I wonder how often we even know we are doing it.
Raise your hand if you’ve never told your child that the store with his favorite toy department is closed at 1 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon. Good. Now, who hasn’t tried to pass off some kind of vegetable on your child’s plate as just a different variety of some food that he loves? We brag up and down about how bright our child is; then, in the privacy of our own home, we secretly hope he is dim enough to buy a Brussels sprout as a green Chicken McNugget. It’s time to load up on some Vitamin Gullible, son.
You’re kid wants you to stay in his room with him until he falls asleep, but your favorite TV show is about to come on. “Lay down, Junior. I’m just going to put on my pajamas; then I’ll be right back.” Sound familiar? Do you always keep your pajamas in the TV room? It’s okay; if he doesn’t fall asleep before he comes looking for you, you can just throw out a couple more lies to cover your tracks. It’s easy. You don’t even have to break a sweat coming up with lies good enough to thwart your children.
I lie to my son a lot, and I will continue to lie to him at this pace until he becomes more reasonable. Those are my conditions: when he becomes a person who can be reasoned with, I will curtail the lying I do in order that I don’t have to go insane trying to negotiate with a three-year-old rogue state. Until he understands that we are not entitled to a treat every time we want one, I will continue to devise fictitious barriers, all beyond my power to overcome, that stand between us and the world’s treats.
Whether he believes me or not is another story. He often does not believe me when I am telling the truth. For example, the library really is closed at 10 p.m. What is my child doing up at 10 p.m., you ask. Simple, he’s bugging me about taking him to the library. And he cannot go to sleep because he is convinced that I am lying to him when I tell him it is closed. It’s very frustrating for an honest man to be disbelieved.
I’ve decided that it’s probably hypocritical for me to expect my son to always be truthful. If he’s going to grow up to lie, which of course he is, the least I can do for him is to help him develop into a competent liar. Right now, his lies are ridiculously childish. Anybody could see right through them. He needs to learn how make them plausible and then really sell them. His weak, baby lies won’t cut it in this cruel world. He needs to step up and lie like a man.
I think there is a lot he could learn from me. I see a lot of great father-son bonding moments ahead.