The Politics of Parenting: Don’t Lie to Your Kids

In life, we can’t insure that the Presidential Candidate of our choice will win. We also can’t control what the President, or any political figure, will say or do once elected.

But if we look at some of the ethics we’d like to see in our politicians, we CAN make sure we’re applying them in our own little country we call home.

Welcome to the first installment of The Politics of Parenting: Don’t Lie to Your Children.

Let’s take the recent John McCain incident as an example. He was supposed to appear on The David Letterman Show for an interview. If you haven’t heard the story, Senator McCain backed out of the appearance, saying that he had to get back to Washington immediately to help with the economic crisis.

McCain then proceeded to tape an interview with Katie Couric BEFORE he made his way back to Washington. Obviously this interview was more important to the Senator than the Dave Letterman appearance.

But the point is McCain flat out lied. And with that lie comes loss of trust & loss of credibility. The same is true of parents that lie to their kids.

Kids are not stupid. They know when we’re lying. More importantly, they deserve the truth.

If we’re going to lie about something, big or small, how can our kids ever be sure we’re telling the truth? I’m not saying you have to be brutal in how you share the truth, it can be offered in an age-appropriate way.

Even if we have good intentions, trying to protect our children with a lie is not the best choice. When we hide the truth from them, we rob them of the opportunity to learn a valuable life lesson. This shelters them from a reality that might one day be present in their lives as adults (like money issues, death, or relationship problems). I think our kids will fare better if we’ve given them a foundation of what to expect from life and how to deal with it.

Protecting the integrity of our relationships with out kids has far better long-term results. It gives them a sense of security & safeness. It helps them feel like “real people,” because they’re included (again in an age appropriate way) in what’s going on with the family. This helps them grow into healthy, high-functioning adults.

If our kids have lost faith in our word, how can we expect to be trusted  — especially during stressful or major life changing situations? Even if it’s a “small lie,” you can not realistically expect your kids to listen to your advice or suggestions after you’ve undermined the relationship with a lack of trust.

McCain could have said: “Sorry Dave, I can’t make the show tonight. As you know, there’s an economic crisis I have to attend to. I also have a news interview scheduled with Katie Couric, and I simply can not break that interview. Plus, I’m really old and I need a nap. Is there any chance we can resehceule when things calm down?”

Sure, Dave may have still been pissed, but at least he’d have the satisfaction of knowing the possible future President told the truth. If he’s lying about trivial things like this, can we trust anything he says?

If your kids can’t trust you to tell the truth, who can they trust? Certainly not John McCain.

Here’s what Letterman had to say about what happened thing…

And remember, you are not alone…

2 Replies to “The Politics of Parenting: Don’t Lie to Your Kids”

  1. Here is a genuine, sincere question in regards to your “don’t lie” post. What do you recommend telling an eleven year old when his father (divorced) is a really poor influence? Specifically, when my son storms home and announces “Why are you taking Dad to court over the money he owes you? Couldn’t you have just reminded him again? And, it really isn’t that much money he owes you!”

    What do you tell him when he gets angry at you for taking him to the hospital to get examined after being physically asaulted by his father?

    What do you tell him when he sees Dad have about four different girlfriends a year who “spend the night too!”

    Lastly, what do you say as a means of explanation when he thinks you are just a mean ole bitch because you won’t allow him to have extra time in this type of environment…when you calmly just tell your son that we going to stick to the court ordered arrangement because it’s best right now? What do you say that makes it less likely that he will build up resentments toward you, the only parent that seems to have his best interests truly at heart?

    What do you say when the truth doesn’t work, but a lie is not the way to go either?

    Any answers or comments are welcomed at

  2. Hi Wendy.

    I wanted to respond to your comment, but after thinking about it for a day, I don’t know quite what to say. It sounds like you are in a very difficult situation, with an ex who is not only a bad influence, but is also bad mouthing you to your child.

    If you’re explaining everything to your son & he’s being angry with his responses, possibly some intervention would be helpful? He sounds so angry. Is he mad that you and your ex separated? It sounds like he doesn’t know how to cope, so he’s lashing out.

    If it’s OK, I am going to contact a friend of mine who is a PHD, specializing in child development. Maybe he will have some better advice to help.

    I’m sorry you are in so much pain.

    I wish you peace, positive energy and a healing resolution.


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