In her hilariously funny yet thought-provoking book, The Lies My Parents Told Me, former New York Times columnist Bernice Kanner has talked about the mostly harmless and sometimes downright bizarre lies that parents tell their children growing up.
“For parents it is an absolute necessity, to reassure a child or for preserving the innocence of childhood…but they do pass on a whole encyclopaedia of strange fiction…”
Well, the majority of us parents, perplexed by the antics of our children, have taken recourse to the odd lie that really didn’t mean any harm, at least a few times. Most of them are not even lies -- they are just not the truth! There are so many situations when you feel that you have reached the end of the tunnel or really don’t have a logical response. So you say something that will satisfy the children or stop them from doing something crazy at that moment in time. That does not mean you are a bad parent or that it is going to damage your kids forever.
So here are a few lies we tell our children (and get away with) --
1. Behave or the policeman will come for you -- You have taken your children for a drive and they are just not behaving themselves. You are down to tearing your hair and then you pass a policeman. Then you say -- “That policeman is going to take you to jail for misbehaving.” We don’t believe in scaring kids like that but it often works.
2. We will reach in five minutes -- Wherever you are going is probably two hours away, but this is a harmless lie and perhaps the only way to calm a whiny and tormenting toddler, who keeps asking you when you will get to your destination. She will anyway find out the truth, eventually.
3. A tree will grow out of your ears -- We say this mostly to prevent small children from swallowing orange pips or other seeds that could give them a stomach upset. It's a little scary but it works.
4. I’m allergic to cats/dogs -- Some parents say this when the children keep demanding a pet every waking hour and the circumstances may be such that they genuinely may not be able to get one. So they say that they are allergic to pets, just to close the discussion.
5. It’s not there -- How many times has your little one come into your room looking for a toy or a sock and almost ransacked your wardrobe? So, this one is usually said to prevent a child from opening a particular drawer or closet, which you don’t want her to. It is hilarious mostly because children are smart enough to get the better of parents when they say this one.
6. The beach/park is closed today -- You have just had a lousy day and are so tired that you cannot get up. Your child insists on going to the beach, park or the nearby fast-food joint. What do you do? Say that today is the day the park doesn’t open. It usually works as long as the child does not find out.
7. If you don’t finish fast, you will have to wash the dishes -- Parents who just cannot get their preschooler to finish his fancy meal in a restaurant, after trying every trick, say this out of frustration.
8. Eat, its potato/chicken -- Getting your child to eat a vegetable or meat dish that they dislike, by saying that it is chicken -- now, that’s not exactly an honourable thing to do. It is best to avoid this one because the child may have a hard time believing what veggie or meat she is eating, in the future.
9. The crow took it away -- When your child has misplaced a favourite toy or it is lost somewhere, parents will often say "the crow took it away," to console the child at that time. Moreover, it is also one way of teaching them to be more responsible.
10. Eat, or the moon will be angry with you -- This line is a favourite of grandmothers’ and works with toddlers, more often than not. It is just a strategy to get fussy eaters to finish their meal.
11. Santa will give you gifts only if you are a good boy -- Many children grow up thinking Santa Claus is for real and most parents keep up the pretence because it is nice for children to believe that someone is watching over them. It is up to the parents to decide when to talk about it.
12. Your nostrils will expand like a monster’s if you pick your nose -- It is really annoying for a parent to watch a child persistently picking his nose, especially in public. If admonition and explaining don't work, what do you do? At least, telling a child that the nostrils will turn ugly, seems to do the trick.
13. I will have to tell your teacher -- You catch your child doing something nasty or rude and he is not even being apologetic about it. What’s your last resort -- saying that you will complain to the teacher. Not that you are really going to do it. Don’t say it too often though, as your child will know you are fibbing.
14. The restaurant rule says no crying/whining allowed -- You show your whiny toddler (who has not learnt to read) a board in a restaurant and read it saying “crying and whining not allowed.” Somehow children believe this.
15. I’m drinking medicine -- Your little tyke walks in on you having a quiet drink in the study. Being the curious one, she will ask you what you are having and ask for a taste. What do you do? Say it's bitter medicine.
16. It’s not going to hurt at all -- Really? We all know that an injection or a tooth extraction is going to hurt and lying about it is not going to help. The pain might really throw the child off guard and then she will be even more angry with you.
17. Your face will freeze that way -- Just a fun thing to say, when your child is being really annoying, making those funny and outrageous faces. After a point, you just get tired of their antics and say this to make them stop.
18.When I was your age, I walked to school/helped mum with the dishes -- This one really takes the cake for being the most hilarious of the lot. The child will probably just go check with the grandparents!
19. If you don’t brush your teeth, your mouth will be full of worms -- This is not exactly a lie and said for a good purpose. Children try to make all kinds of excuses for not brushing their teeth and this one works wonders.
20. I know when you lie -- You might as well have said you are God. Parents often say this to get the child to admit to the truth. While it is a harmless thing to say, it may not always work.
Abraham Lincoln once famously said -- “No man has a good enough memory to make a successful liar.” So parents, don’t beat yourself up for the odd, harmless lie you say. Be wary of the big ones.
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