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Telling White Lies to Your Children

Published March 12, 2013        by Sarah

Image by Joccay on FlickrStudies have suggested that people lie more than ever before. In fact, one study even suggests that people tell up to three lies every ten minutes. While you certainly don’t want to regularly lie to your children about the bigger things in life, suggesting that Chuck E. Cheese is closed on Saturday afternoons can’t possibly count as a lie, can it? Is it ever okay to tell white lies to your children?

The Benefits

There are a number of different reasons that parents choose to lie to their children. One of the biggest is that it can help avoid tantrums. For example, perhaps you tell your child that you can’t purchase a certain toy because it has an age restriction on it. The bonus here is that you make it out of the store without a tantrum and without the toy. Another reason parents often lie is to create healthy habits. Parents often tell their children that they have to eat their vegetables for one silly reason or another, much like reasoning why they can't take all the money out of their piggy banks to go to the candy store. Your kids start eating their vegetables because of your little white lie. Parents also lie about their own behavior. Sometimes the lie is to cover adult behaviors in the bedroom. In other cases, it’s to cover bad habits like drinking, smoking, or even eating junk food. Parents often craft these lies to protect their children from the truth, and it typically works with an almost instant effect.

The Drawbacks

As amazing as those white lies seem to be, there are some drawbacks associated with them. One University of California study had students discuss the lies that had been most damaging to them within their lives. Almost all of the results showed lies that were meant to protect them from a death in the family. Children typically have a sense about serious problems that may be on the horizon, including divorce, illness, or death, and lying to them about it can only cause more problems. In addition to a big drawback like that, though, if your child catches you in a lie, he or she may not trust you. Moreover, it’s possible that you’re suggesting to your child it’s okay to lie to absolutely anyone, including you.

The Verdict

Lying is sometimes inevitable. In some cases, your child may not be old enough to actually be ready to process the truth, and in situations like those, it’s probably a good idea to go ahead and fabricate that little white lie that will help to ensure damage to their own stability doesn’t occur. In other cases where lies aren’t actually necessary, it’s best to just avoid them if at all possible.  If you have to say “no,” or find the right way to tell your child the truth, take the difficult steps necessary and do so. You have to be the model in this situation, and the last thing you want to do is erode the relationship you’re working so hard to build with them because of a little white lie.