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Lies parents tell their kids

David Epps's picture

Many years ago, my oldest son had a propensity to play in the street in front of our house. Since he was only 4 or 5 years old, this was not an approved activity.

In spite of warnings, scoldings, and spankings, he always seemed to find a way to sit in the middle of the road and become a target for fast moving traffic. This behavior resulted in his being restricted to either the house or the fenced-in back yard.

Once, he asked to play in the front yard. I told him, “No,” because of the road thing. He asked if he could play near the road if he didn’t get in it. I have no idea what the attraction to the street was.

I said, “Listen. There was once a little boy who was playing by the road. A car came by and, at that exact moment, a tire blew. It blew with such force that the little boy literally had his face blown off. He lived but he had no ears, no eyelids, two holes where his nose should be, and had to eat through a straw because his mouth was blown off.”

It was the last time he got near the road. It was several years before he concluded the story was ... an exaggeration.

One of my other sons wanted to bring a dead bird into the house that he had found in the back yard. My wife said no. He said he was going to get a stick and poke at it. My wife, who is a nurse, told him that the germs and parasites on dead birds were so ferocious that, even if the stick was 10 feet long, they could immediately jump on the stick and, before he could let it go, the germs and parasites would be all over him.

He left the dead bird alone.

Some people would be horrified that my kids were told these ... exaggerations ... but those same people have no problem perpetuating the legends of the Easter Bunny, Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and other personas.

Why do parents lie to their kids? Well, most of the time, they believe it’s the right thing to do. It is, they think, for the benefit of the children.

In the case of the blown tire and the stick, it was to protect them. In the case of the seasonal characters, and others, it is to bring them joy. Sometimes, it is to challenge them to do better.

What parent hasn’t said, “If you only worked and studied, you could be a straight-A student,” knowing full well that if their little dummy could only bang out a C, they would be enthralled?

We also stretch the truth to help their self-esteem and to be an encouragement. “Way to go kid! You almost belted that out of the park,” as he struck out for the umpteenth time in the season, never getting a hit.

“How beautiful!” we say as we put the art work on the fridge as if the scrawlings on the construction paper ought to be hung in the Louvre.

Truthfully ... we lie out of love. At least most parents who lie do so out of love. There are probably better ways to handle a situation that to ... um ... exaggerate. But sometime we just say what we say in the urgency of the moment.

So, yes, we lie to our kids. Whatever the reason, it is a sin. Thankfully, it is also true that “love covers a multitude of sins.”

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U.. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.]

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