Parenting isn’t easy under any circumstances, and parents seem to be under excessive pressure today to do everything “right.” Books, classes, and websites abound to teach parents how to do what used to be a rather simple proposition. Experts are everywhere; unfortunately, some will undermine your confidence in your ability to parent your own children.
The “Expert Class” has convinced parents that they’re inept and completely incapable of completing the simplest of parenting tasks without consulting them. And it’s not just the credentialed experts. Friends, family members, and people on the street liberally dispense advice and many parents feel so overwhelmed that they lose confidence in their ability to make good decisions for their children, constantly second-guessing themselves. Worse, many parents leave the parenting up to the “experts.”
Dr. Ray Guarendi, clinical psychologist and father of ten, describes the pressures this way:
Few things can ruin the enjoyment of parenthood more surely than a fear of mistakes. Nowadays so many parents live with the daily worry that they will accidentally set in motion some emotional hang-up that will plague their youngster through childhood and maybe into adulthood. One single parent mom told me she was reluctant to discipline her strong willed son because she didn’t want him to grow up with bad feelings towards women.
It’s no surprise that parents are so skittish. They’ve been blamed for everything from Waldo’s bellyache to his dropping out of school. Somehow, some way, the finger gets pointed back at the folks. They must have miscalculated or blundered at some crucial stage along the way. Out of ignorance, inexperience, lack of sophistication or savvy, they’ve done something to create the instability or defect in Sigmund’s mental health.
Let’s begin with a basic premise: They are your children and you know them better and love them more than anyone else on the face of the earth. This doesn’t mean that you’re a perfect parent or that you’ll never make any mistakes, but it means that more than anyone on the earth, you care about the well-being and success of your children and therefore are the best qualified to make decisions on their behalf.
However, in order to be an empowered, confident parent, you must learn to recognize when others, whether they are “experts” or family members, overstep their bounds and when it may be appropriate—and better—to trust your instincts and judgement.
Honesty isn’t always the best policy when it comes to reasoning with small children. Being totally honest with your children is a noble thought and in a perfect world it would certainly be considered the best practice.
However, the world isn’t perfect, and young children are not compact adults. In fact, the world is too complex and dangerous to expect the under-seven crowd to grasp the total truth on most issues. It’s hard enough trying to get them to grasp personal hygiene, let alone an ugly reality.
Young children possess limited reasoning and coping skills. Just because a child is old enough to ask if his military dad might die in Afghanistan doesn’t mean he should carry the burden of worry every day that his father could be killed.
Lies come in all shades, sizes, and colors. My rules for what constitutes a legal parental lie have more to do with childhood fantasy, health, hygiene, and safety.
If you’re not sure about what constitutes what I call a permissible lie, here is my basic rule of thumb. One day, with a little more age and maturity, my child will not only realize I lied, but also understand why — all in the span of one epiphany.
Establishing truth and trust is important for a healthy, happy childhood. You tell stories to your children and keep them safe, and build trust in your relationship as they grow. Wise parents will do so without destroying their innocence.
A few well-placed lies, or crafted stories handed down from generation to generation, can color a childhood with imagination, protect children from their immaturity, and shield children from the adult burden of understanding the truth of real evil.
From the most harmless fibs to verbal shields of protection, here are six lies we tell our children.