20 lies it's OK to tell your kids

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Let's be honest. Most parents lie to their kids. Most of these lies seem innocuous enough. Your parents might've told you there was spinach in those chocolate chip cookies to get you to stop eating sweets. Or maybe they told you "I'll think about it" one too many times when you asked for something. You probably learned at some point that "I'll think about it" really means "no."

These lies seem innocent, but can breed mistrust over time. And some of the lies more commonly told, such as "Your goldfish lives in the ocean now," "The park is closed today," or "I never did drugs," can actually be damaging for other reasons, too. Dealing with death, disappointment and realizing parents make mistakes are important lessons in maturity. These experiences help kids to grow up into better adults.

Most family therapists agree that unless you want your child to grow up with trust issues, it's probably best to keep the lies to a minimum. Honesty is the best policy, after all. But there are some exceptions to this golden rule. Here are 20 little lies that are OK to tell to your kids.


Any lie that ends in a surprise party

Unless your child hates surprises, they're not going to be upset that you lied about plans that night. As soon as they open the front door, every lie is confessed and absolutely absolved. Who can stay mad when there's cake involved?


'Santa Claus is real'

Putting the whole "He sees you while you're sleeping" thing aside, there's really nothing wrong with this one. Why ruin the magic of leaving out cookies and finding unmarked presents under the tree? The biggest complication here is for non-Christian parents. They have to figure out how to explain to their kids why it's OK to lie to their friends this time, but never again.


'You can do anything you set your mind to'

No, your child cannot do anything they set their mind to. Unfortunately, barriers like prejudice, finances, physical limitations and other unfortunate circumstances just might tug some of their aspirations too far out of reach. But right now, they just need to learn to believe in themselves. The world will do everything in its power to convince them not to feel confident later on, though a lot of their dreams will be attainable. They shouldn't be convinced not to chase them!


'I would never throw your artwork away'

Every parent wishes they could keep a trove of memories from their children's younger years, but unless you want to end up on the TV show "Hoarders," it's not a great idea. And with drawings and scribbles, there are just so many. You don't necessarily have to tell your kid you're throwing away their masterpieces, but it's OK to select a few favorites and toss the rest.


'Everything is going to be OK'

This is a lie adults still tell one another. Let's be real: Everything is not always OK. This lie is more of a turn of phrase that people use to make each other feel better. What "Everything is going to be OK" really means is more like "This not-OK thing happening right now is temporary" and "I'm here to try to help you feel better."


'It's bedtime'

For one reason or another, you have to wake your family up earlier than usual the next morning. But how do you trick your kids into going to sleep an hour before the usual bedtime? Easy: Lie about what time it is.


'That's a great drawing'

This is basically a roundabout way of complimenting your kid's artwork without admitting you have no idea what they were trying to draw. Is it an antelope? Is it a spider? You honestly can't tell. But you don't want to deter them from creative expression! Another white lie is just to say, "I love the colors you used in this!" They'll never know.


'Your singing sounds amazing'

Unless your child is a prodigy, their singing voice probably doesn't sound like it belongs on the radio. But there's nothing wrong with a little unconditional support and confidence boosting. What you really mean here is that their singing sounds amazing to you - because you love them, of course!


'I'm going to sleep, too'

You might have paperwork to get done or cleaning to do. But you know it'll be way easier to get your chores done without your toddler tugging at your leg the entire time. Telling your child that you're going to sleep, too, can help motivate them to get into bed without too much of a fuss.


'There's nothing to be afraid of'

If you're conquering fears of roller coasters or teaching them to ride a bike, this might not be much of a lie. But other times, there are absolutely things to be afraid of. The world can be a scary place filled with hail the size of golf balls and wackos throwing firecrackers into subway cars. Fearful children can end up becoming traumatized adults. Help ease kids' fears when you can.


'I love this gift'

The truth? You love the thought behind the gift. But there's no use in making your child feel guilty for buying you a shirt you won't want to wear or picking out an ugly tie. This way, the joy of gift giving will remain for the both of you.

'I don't know'

Kids love asking questions. And for the most part, you take the time to answer them. That is how kids learn, after all. But sometimes, you're really tired and don't feel like explaining how rocket ships work (even if you know). A simple "I don't know" lie will suffice - plus, it teaches your kid that even adults don't know everything.


'Turning the lights on in the car is illegal'

For some reason, kids love messing with the overhead lights in the car. It's certainly not illegal, but it can be distracting for the driver. Flashing or bright lights in the backseat can make seeing through the rearview mirror more difficult and increase the chances of a crash. Some say it's better to just be up front with your kids and explain to them why it's dangerous. But this lie could work, too, especially if you're feeling desperate on a chaotic family road trip.


'Storks bring babies'

Not ready for the chat about the birds and the bees? At some point, you're going to have to explain that "baby making" doesn't just mean waiting at the hospital for the next stork delivery. Sex ed is important for your kids' maturity and safety. But while they're still young (and while you're still doing all that super fun research about how to explain sex to a child), this lie will suffice.


'Everything you learn in school is important'

You know your child will probably never need to use those geometry proofs ever again. But you don't want them to close off any opportunities! For some people, geometry is important after graduation. And for your kid right now, learning geometry is important for getting straight A's. You might find it wiser to wait to introduce a cynicism towards the education system until after they've left it.


'Monsters aren't real'

Have you paid attention to the news lately?! Monsters are absolutely real. They just typically don't take the form of a grotesque creature hiding in your closet to watch you while you sleep. Telling children this can help put those imaginative fears (and your kids) to bed.


'Beer tastes bad, you wouldn't like it'

The excuse "This is only for adults" never satisfied any kid's curiosity. It probably just made them feel left out and frustrated. So some parents opt to just lie. Beer is gross! Why would anyone drink it? They can wait till they're 21 - or, more realistically, 16 - to learn the truth about this one.


'I'm not hungry'

This lie is one that's not so fun to tell. For parents going through financial troubles, it can be important. Sometimes, there just isn't enough food available. Many parents will opt to feed their kids dinner while waiting it out for themselves, but don't want their kids to worry that there isn't enough to eat. In these cases, a small fib of "I'm not hungry" can help save children from guilt and from developing trauma from food deprivation.


'I don't know where your toy went'

That siren-blasting fire truck will turn up later. But for right now, you have a blasting headache and a really tall closet shelf, so...


'Everything evens out in the end'

If you grew up with siblings, you heard this lie dozens of times. Whenever your siblings got something that you didn't and you griped about it, your parents probably just repeated: "Everything evens out in the end." But life isn't always as fair as parents make it out to be. And chances are, one sibling is going to end up with the short end of the stick. In life, though, it can be useful to conduct yourself as if things were fair - you know, to be a good person and all that. Speaking of being a good person... Here are 50 little things you can do to be a better parent and person overall.

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