Joe Boughner: The Naked Dad


Lying To Kids—Could There Be a Downside?

It's The Time Of The Season To Lie, Lie, Lie

Look, I am all about lying to my kid.

From the small lies (“five more minutes, I’m counting.”) to the bigger ones (ask my kid what a giraffe says and she earnestly replies, “Hello, I’m a giraffe!”), one of the overlooked joys of parenthood is having an innocent and trusting mind to mold. If we didn’t mess with them just a bit, we wouldn’t be doing our jobs.

As my grandfather says, it’s not really a lie if you don’t expect someone to believe you.

I know two adult siblings who have verified for me, independently, that their dad used to tell them that shampoo was poo from an animal called a Sham, which was like a mountain lion that only ate flowers, so its poo would smell nice. That, to me, is top-shelf parenting. Nuts to grey areas and questionable motives, that’s just harmless and entertaining. That’s the kind of lie I can get behind.

I am of the mind that parenting, when done correctly, involves delicately hopping over the line between imaginative play and outright deception, and back, regularly. As long as it’s not on something of real substance or importance, nobody gets hurt.

But man, does this time of year challenge even me.

Before my daughter was born, my wife and I discussed how to handle the whole Santa thing. On the one hand, it’s a magical story that brings great delight to kids. On the other? It’s a massive, massive lie, reinforced at every turn. And one that is often (though not always) used to try to manipulate behaviour.

At this point (my daughter’s almost three), she’s already picked up on the Santa story, even without our active participation. We’re not rushing to burst the bubble or anything, but I think when push comes to shove, we’ll be forthright if she asks.

And then there’s the whole elf on the shelf thing. Like Santa, I see the merits. The idea of the kid waking up and going off in search of the elf to see what silly predicament it’s in? That’s gold, man. But the whole “oh yeah, and he’s also spying for Santa, so damn well behave” angle is a bit . . . I dunno . . . off-putting, somehow.

I’m not saying parents shouldn’t indulge in the Yuletide traditions, old and new. It wouldn’t take much to convince me that the good memories and fun outweigh the bad, but there’s no elf in our house, and at this point, I’m not sure about how to handle the Santa thing once the hard questions come.

What about you, good readers of YMC? Are you elf on the shelfers? Do you use it to encourage good behaviour from your kids?

Is it time to scrap Santa? Click here to read more.

(photo by Flickr user ATENCION)