July 3, 2022

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We’re parenting experts – it’s fine to lie to kids about bedtime, but telling fibs to get them to eat dinner is harmful

4 min read

MOST parents are guilty of telling fibs from time to time, particularly if it makes parenting that much easier.

And according to the experts, this is totally fine, in fact, it’s even sometimes “necessary” if you want to avoid a tantrum, but you need to tread carefully.

Telling fibs to your kids can be fine, but you need to tread carefully

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Telling fibs to your kids can be fine, but you need to tread carefullyCredit: Getty

“Regularly being lied to as a child can increase the frequency with which children then lie to their parents as they grow up. So striking a culture of honesty is really important,” Sophie Baron, the founder of Mamamade told Fabulous.

“But the occasional lie is OK, especially if it’s fleeting and really has the child’s well-being in mind – such as ‘it’s already past your bedtime’ or ‘the shop is closed’ – we could call these instrumental lies.”

Angela Karanja, a psychologist and founder of Raising Remarkable Teenagers said harmless white lies “need to be something that you can laugh off at a later time.”

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“White lies that prevent harm and enhance wellbeing and propel safety I’d welcome and if fibs are told as a story then it’s OK,” she said.

For example, making up a fun story to make kids get into the habit of doing something, like brushing their teeth, is completely fine.

“By the time [they] realised it’s a fib, a fable, [they would have] already developed great teeth brushing habits,” she said.

“But parents must be willing to own up to the fact that it’s a lie when its time is up and when it’s no longer an effective motivator.”

However, Kimberley, primary school teacher and owner of Catkin Toys, warned some white lies can risk causing confusion and distrust “particularly if they are used simply to make our lives as parents easier.”

“Instead, we should strive to find ways of explaining the truth in simple terms, so our children have the opportunity to build the necessary skills to cope with negative emotions like disappointment,” she explained.

“This builds trust and a lasting bond between you and your child which white lies can often chip away at over time.”

The occasional lie is ok, especially if it’s fleeting and really has the child’s well-being in mind, we could call these instrumental lies.

Sophie Baronfounder of Mamamade

Kimberley thinks lying about food at mealtimes just to get your kids to eat their vegetables is a big no-no and there’s no scenario when this is beneficial for kids.

“With so many issues surrounding food, for both children and adults, telling a white lie to get your child eating their broccoli might sound like a good idea, but in reality, it could help to create an unhealthy association with food in general,” she said.

“While a white lie of ‘cauliflower will make you taller’ sounds innocent enough, it fails to address the real reasons we should eat a healthy, balanced diet. Instead, try finding time outside of mealtimes to discuss healthy eating.”

For example, if your child loves to play in their toy kitchen, spend some time discussing healthy food items with them, or use Play Dough to create healthy plates of food.

“Another option is to involve your child in the cooking process,” Kimberly said.

“They are far more likely to eat a meal they have had a hand in preparing and cooking!”

Other harmful lies are ones that lead to hatred for people, defamation and slander, Angela said.

Sophie agreed to say: “More harmful are perhaps bigger, empty lies that break down parent-child trust – particularly as a child’s understanding of the world increases, and they can come to understand they’ve been lied to.”

For example “I’m going to call the police if you don’t behave” or saying “daddy’s going on holiday” instead of explaining about a divorce or separation.  

If in doubt, Kimberly said to try to calmly explain the reason behind the decisions you make, rather than lying to make it easier for parents.

Recently, TikTok user Ashley Molina revealed she lies to her kids about their bedtime every day but claims people think she’s a genius.

Plus this mum made a chore list to trick her kids into doing jobs and say her house is the cleanest it’s ever been.

And this 19-year-old mum-of-nine hit back at trolls who accused her of starving her children.

Lying to your kids to make them eat vegetables is a big no-no

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Lying to your kids to make them eat vegetables is a big no-noCredit: Getty

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