My 4-year-old son and I have a common exchange when I give him the one-minute warning.
“You’ve got one more minute, and then it’s time to (eat dinner, get out of the pool, go to bed, etc.)” I tell him.
“Is a minute a long time?” my son asks with complete sincerity.
“It’s 60 seconds,” I tell him.
“Oh, cool. Thanks, Mom.”
He’s happy. I’m happy. And, best of all, I didn’t have to lie.
According to a recent Redbook survey, 84 percent of the magazine’s readers said they lie to their kids about once a month. But they’re not proud of it: 76 percent said they feel guilty about telling their child a lie.
As much as I try to avoid lying to my son, I too have been guilty. When the time came to wean him off a pacifier, I concocted the perfect plan: Upon our return from a trip to California to visit Grandpa, I told him we had accidentally left them behind. I got the queue from my Mom, who 30 years earlier turned me off to pacifiers by telling me we lost them outside and then “found” them, dripping in mud. Disgusted, I gave those suckers up cold turkey that night.
Childhood experts seem to agree that, generally speaking, white lies parents tell their kids don’t scar them for life. In fact, those tall tales we tell our kids to foster belief in the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus, for example, can actually fuel their imagination.
But resorting to lying on a regular basis is not the way to build trust between you and your child and could create a sticky situation if you’re caught in the act. Many kids usually learn to lie by age 3, and most learn by copying Mom and Dad. Best to nip that habit in the bud; otherwise, you might end up with a teenager who thinks lying is perfectly OK.
Here are a few tips from my arsenal of trying to avoid lying to my son:
Explain yourself. Instead of trying to convince your child that the M&Ms are old or rotten, tell him that eating too many of them is not healthy. They don’t make you strong the way fruits and vegetables do.
Of course, it’s important to know your audience and understand what your child is developmentally ready to handle. When my husband and I told our son that I was pregnant and expecting Baby No. 2 one evening, he woke up the next morning with lots of questions.
“Is your belly going to get bigger and bigger and then will pop so the baby can come out?” he asked.
“No, my belly won’t pop,” I assured him.
“Will the baby come out of your mouth?” he followed up.
“Don’t worry. The baby is going to grow in my belly, and when it’s time, it’ll come out,” I answered, as I walked toward his playroom to find some great new toy to take his mind off the topic.
Which brings me to my second point:
When in doubt, distract. When you’re heading to the checkout counter and you want to avoid your child spotting that must-have candy, give her the opportunity to swipe your credit card in the machine. Even better, let her press the buttons! Chances are she won’t even notice those M&Ms sitting there.
It’s OK to say you don’t want to talk about something. Remember, you set the rules. The same way you can and should put a stop to your child eating too much cake, you can stop a conversation nicely and directly.
POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)
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