The problem of telling little white lies in front of your child

I’m busy that day.

I already donated to your organization.

The meal was delicious.

Thank you. I love it.

Many of us tell these little white lies without a thought believing these “harmless” fibs spare feelings. We say these things to make our lives easier and to avoid conflict.

_hurt-feelings-clipart-hurt-feelings-clipart_1152-648We tell them to avoid hurting someone’s feelings (I love this gift.) as well as excuse our own behavior (Sorry, I’m late. Traffic was terrible.) And many adults don’t even consider these little white lies to be lies at all. But they are. And how are young kids to understand the difference?

How do they differentiate a “fib” to grandma about liking a present and a lie to their parents about breaking a dish? In both instances they do not want to hurt someone’s feeling or have someone mad at them.

And research suggests that when kids hear adults lying, they are more likely to do it themselves. A study from the University of California found that 5 to 7 year olds who were told a lie by an adult were more likely to cheat and then lie about it afterward.

Research also shows that kids lie more as they get older. When you have a toddler, they are very honest (sometimes embarrassingly so). Preschools often lie to avoid getting in trouble. (I didn’t do it.) By the time they are 5, 72% of kids would tell a white lie. It is up to 80% for 8 year olds and up to 84% for 11 year olds.

We tell kids we want them to be honest but then they see us lying or we encourage them to lie to spare someone’s feelings, and they get confused on which one we want. They learn that honesty creates conflict while lying is an easy way to avoid that conflict.

So can you teach your kids to be kind and honest? I think you can. Much as we look at the drawing our kids bring us and not tell them it is horrible but point out something we like, we can teach our kids to do the same. So instead of saying they don’t like the sweater Grandma bought them, they can point out something positive (It is a pretty color, or it is so soft.)

The truth is this is not easy either and can still lead to conflict. Instead of the white lie, “Traffic was terrible,” you would have to admit you left late or misgauged your timing. And if you tell your friend that you don’t want to meet on Friday night (instead of telling them your busy) and suggest another date, you still risk the chance of hurting their feelings. But the truthfulness of your statement won’t be lost on your child. Instead of teaching them to lie, you will be teaching them to be honest. And that is after all what we want, isn’t it?

What to do when your kid “tattles”

“Mom, Jase is being mean. He won’t let me…”

“Lexie hit me!”

As parents, we are all too familiar with our kids coming to tell us what another sibling/friend/classmate did wrong. And too often, I hear parents telling their kids not to “tattle.” I have even said that to my own kids but then wondered later if I am doing the right thing.

I mean after all we want our children to come to us when something is wrong. We need to know if someone is hurting them or doing something dangerous.

My friend, Sara, had an issue with her daughter’s teacher telling her eight-year-old daughter Madeline not to “tattle” when a boy was hitting her. She was asking for help after having already told the boy to stop doing it. The teacher wasn’t hearing her plea for help. She assumed, as too many of us parents and teachers do, that Madeline was just seeking attention or attempting to get the other kid in trouble.

Sometimes adults assume tattling is an outright lie but research has shown that nine out of 10 times, a tattler is telling the truth.

I recently read an article online about tattling, and it confirmed my concern about telling my child not to “tattle” is a mistake. We are not encouraging kids to work it out or “tough it out.” We are basically dismissing their concern. There is a distinct difference between reporting and tattling.

reportingvstattlingAccording to the article, research suggests that by the time a child comes to tell you something is wrong the child has already endured or witnessed the kid’s offense multiple times. By the time they come to you, they have run out of options. They are asking for help.

As parents, we often tell our kids we want them to tell us when something is wrong. We want them to tell us the truth. But then we contradict ourselves when we tell them not to tattle.

The article suggested we stress to the children that it is important to report other’s harmful behavior – such as the case with Madeline’s classmate who was hitting her and wouldn’t stop when asked. In this case, it really isn’t tattling. And ignoring the child’s plea for help can make them less likely to report harmful behavior in the future and can teach them to be silent when they observe bullying and abuse later.

So what should you do next time your child comes to you with what sounds like a tattle?

  • Ask – “Are you OK?”
  • Ask – “Did you tell him/her to stop?”
  • If your child did not tell them to stop, then part of the problem solving would be to work on this. It can be hard for a child to assert themselves.
  • Listen attentively to your child as they tell you their side of the story. This will let them know that you are taking their concern seriously (even if you don’t agree with their perspective.)
  • End by asking your child what you can do to help. He or she may not need anything other than to be heard. Or he or she may request that you intervene on their behalf. Or this might be a time to brainstorm solution for next time this becomes an issue.

So next time Lexie or Jase comes in to tell me of some offense the other one has done, I am going to stop and listen to them instead of dismissing their claims as an attempt to get the other one in trouble. Not only will this encourage them to reach out to me but hopefully, I can help them decide what issues are important enough to bring forward and which ones they should be able to handle on their own.

Top Parenting Posts from 2015

As the new year begins, I wanted to take this time to highlight some of my parenting posts from 2015. If you missed out on these and want to read more, simply click the link to see the complete post.

Making family time a priority

It is easy throughout the year, and even more so during the busy holiday season, to be preoccupied with getting your list of chores and tasks done that you forget to take the time to stop and really just enjoy your family. (To read more…)

The necessity of Date Nights (or spending time together) for parents

Marriages take work. No one tells you that when you get married. There are compromises and fights along with the good times. And one thing that a couple needs to do – whether they have kids or not – is to continue dating. (To read more…)

Dealing with childhood anxiety

AnxietyOur rule-follower, Jase, is also our worrier. When we announced this summer’s vacation would be a cruise, he worried the ship would sink. When we went to a friend’s informal wedding reception, he worried about whether kids his age would be there. I knew our friend’s son would be there but that news didn’t reassure Jase, and he seemed uncomfortable with the gathering as we knew very few people there. (To read more…)

Discussing strangers, drugs and fire safety with the kids

Drugs, stranger danger, bullying, inappropriate behavior, sex, what to do in case of a fire (or other disasters) – there are a multitude of topics parents should discuss with their kids. (To continue reading…)

Personality trait or attention disorder?

Lexie has always been full of energy. Because of her horrible eczema when she was little we often indulged her – allowing her to be a little more rambunctious than her brother. She was so uncomfortable all the time but always a happy girl. But getting her to listen and follow directions has always been somewhat of a chore. (To continue reading…)

Starting ADD medication

I wrote back in March that Lexie’s teacher was concerned that she might have an attention or focus problem. I brought it up to Lexie’s pediatrician at her 7-year-old checkup in April. After a few basic questions, she gave us the paperwork to have her assessed for ADD or ADHD. (To continue reading…)

Dealing with Road Rage

There are many things that I don’t understand in life and one of them is Road Rage. Oh, I am not saying I have never been annoyed by another driver or waved my hand at them as I mutter a bad word or two over their stupidity. I am talking about the serious Road Rage that leads to someone beating another person or shooting at them. (To read more…)

Why doesn’t the tooth fairy and Santa bring equal gifts for all?

toothfairy 00140Madison gets a toy from the tooth fairy. I hope I get one too,” Lexie says as we tuck the miniature yellow tooth chest under her pillow.

“I don’t think so,” I reply. “Our tooth fairy brings you money. Madison’s tooth fairy can bring her toys if she chooses.”

“Mom, there is only one tooth fairy.”

It is a predicament that every parent faces. Kids talk. They talk about what the tooth fairy brings them. They talk about what Santa brings them. And often there is a discrepancy between what my kid gets and the other kid. (To read more…)

Leaving the kids home alone

Last week, I wrote about letting my son (age 9) walk home by himself and how so many people seemed astonished by that. So I guess, I shouldn’t mention to those same folks that I have let him stay at the house without adult supervision. (To continue reading…)

Two indoor “snow” activities for the kids

CIMG3537We don’t get much snow here in San Antonio. It might snow every three or four years, and even then it is never enough for the serious childhood snow play that I remember from my youth.

So whether you live in a snow-free climate or you just don’t like going out in the cold, here are two snow activities that you can do from the warmth of your house. (Click here to find out about these two awesome ideas!)


And here is to many more wonderful parenting post in 2016!



Letting my kid walk home alone

Every day, I walk my kids (ages 9 and 6) to and from school. As we walk, we typically meet up with other kids and adults. If people in our neighborhood aren’t walking their kids, they are dropping them off on their way to work. You rarely see a kid walking alone to the elementary school.

On the way home, we sometimes see groups of kids walking home together with no adult supervision. There is even a group of girls who walk home the same way we do. The youngest is in kindergarten. The oldest is in fifth grade.

There have been many news stories lately about people getting in trouble for allowing their kids to do things on their own. In one instance, parents got in trouble for allowing their kids to walk to the neighborhood park unsupervised.

Now the article raised all sorts of questions for me. I don’t think you can decide without knowing all the facts whether it was a wise decision for those parents. How far away was the park? Was it down the street? Five streets over? A good 15-minute walk away? What type of neighborhood do they live in? How mature are the kids? Are they responsible? Do they know what to do in an emergency?

In this case, the kids were 6 and 10, and they walked 1 mile to the park. The comments on the story were mostly about how everyone ran around unsupervised when they were children and that it was no big deal then so it should be no big deal that these kids were unsupervised.

This article had had me wondering if I would allow my kids to do the same thing. Well, first of all, we don’t have a neighborhood park close enough so it is a moot consideration. But our neighborhood pool is close. Now suppose there was a playground there. Would I let them walk by themselves? Yes, I think I would. It is in our neighborhood. They wouldn’t be crossing any major streets, and they would be together. At this age, I would certainly let them do it. However, if the park was further away, then probably not.

My friend Heather posted on Facebook about this article. She said that while in Germany, her daughter at age 6 was taking the bus by herself. Again, most of the responses were about parents being too protective. I think you have to do what you feel comfortable with. Looking at my own 6-year-old, I don’t think she is ready to ride a city bus by herself. The school bus would be no problem.

walk homeIn January, Jase brought home a permission slip for him to attend a program after school for an hour for some additional reading help. On the slip, it asked how he was to go home afterwards. He could go to the after school program (KINS), be picked up by an adult, or he could walk home. Jase was all for walking home by himself.

I mentally ran through a list in my head. He is a responsible, rule-following type kid (check). We live in a safe neighborhood. (check) School is only a 5-minute walk away, and he would only travel through our neighborhood streets (with only one big neighborhood street to cross). (check) He knows all about stranger danger and wouldn’t be lured into anyone’s vehicle. (check) And he is 9 years old, certainly old enough for some independence. (check)

So after discussing it with my husband, we decide to give it a try. If he didn’t like it, then I could always tell the school that I would pick him up instead. I talked to him about which way he was walking home (we have two options – one through our neighborhood and one down some busier streets going around the neighborhood) I told him if he wasn’t home within 15 minutes of release time, I would be coming to find him.

When I told several people that I was letting him walk home alone, most of them seemed surprised. They all asked me if I was okay with that. One even asked me if Jase was okay with that. I am not sure why letting my 9-year-old (he will be 10 in May) walk alone seems so odd. Even my in-laws seemed surprised when I said I was letting him walk home alone.

I have every confidence that he can handle it. And he has been for the past three weeks. And I haven’t worried about him one bit. Next thing I know, he won’t want me to walk him to or from school on the other days.