The Lies Parents Tell

As the boy is in the throes of his "Terrible Twos", certain tactics have become necessary in order to ensure basic routines are performed. There was a time not too long ago when brushing teeth, taking the evening shower, and getting into pyjamas were easy tasks that took just a couple of sentences and a hand gesture1. Now it seems that every one of these is a battle most nights, with the boy screaming as though someone threw his favourite toy into an incinerator. Like many people his age, the boy is driven by his emotions.

This evening I wanted to get him to finish his tea. Despite talking almost non-stop every moment he's awake and despite the tears and runny noses that come with every outburst, he's not yet learned the importance of keeping hydrated. Unfortunately, he finds tea "boring" unless there's nothing else available. So, seeing as he's two, I decided to ask a slightly related question that — when examined in context of the situation — might come across as a lie. I held out his cup of tea and asked "Would you like some orange juice?" This had the intended effect, as he took a couple of sips of his drink before pushing it away. Not a day goes by where he doesn't ask for orange juice, so my question was presented as a simple Yes/No which, based on context, appears as deception of the innocent.

I'll probably do it the next time he won't finish his drink, too.

A lot of people likely start out thinking that they won't lie to their kids, but this is simply untenable. Parents must lie to their children in order to get things done. "If you're really good, maybe Santa will bring you a new bike" and "But you like spinach!" are just two that I remember my parents saying to siblings over the years. Here in Japan, there's a mobile app that people can install that'll allow a parent to pretend they're calling an oni2 to report their child to. "Kenji won't clean his room," the parent would say. Because the application already had the child's name stored, and because the app uses the main speaker rather than the ear piece, a loud, angry voice would be heard saying "Kenji won't do what! Do I have to come over there?" By this point, if the child is under the age of six, they'll likely start crying and beg their parent to hang up. Demons are scary creatures, after all.

As children grow up and learn the various lies, they learn how to make their own in order to manipulate their parents. At this point it becomes an arms race to see who can better prepare and devise fibs and half-truths in order to achieve an agenda. In a "typical" family, there is likely more honesty than fabrications but, so long as the end justifies the means, there will always be some degree of inaccurate statements from the parents. For the moment my kid is young enough that these sorts of manipulations are still effective and will be forgotten. As he gets older, though, I'm really hoping that the need to lie or misdirect becomes less necessary.

  1. Generally a "come on over" gesture.

  2. a horned demon.