Liar, Liar, Nose on Fire: Why We Lie to Our Kids

Dear Mr. Dad: Like most parents, I encourage my kids to tell me the truth and I always give them consequences for lying. The other day, just after I’d taken away my 9-year-old’s video game privileges for lying to me about having done his homework, I realized that I lie to my kids all the time. Is there a difference between a parent’s lies and a child’s?
A: What a great question. As adults, we know how important it is to tell truth and we teach our children that it’s wrong to lie. But then we turn around and do it—right to their face—every day (and this goes far beyond the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus). In fact, several recent studies have found that about 90% of parents have a repertoire of completely BS stories that we tell our kids. According to researcher Gail Heyman, those lies tend to fall into four categories: diet and nutrition, getting the kids to either leave or stay somewhere, changing behavior, and money. Here are some of the best ones (if you haven’t used them already, you’re free to add them to your arsenal).

The Trouble with Kittens Is That They Grow Up to Be Cats

Dear Mr. Dad: Our adorable little girl has turned into a difficult, rebellious teenager. She’s only 14, but she already insists on wearing make-up, and screams things like, “I hate you!” and “It’s my life so you can’t tell me what to do.” Help!

A: And people say the terrible twos are bad? Ha! It won’t come as much comfort right now, but just about every parent of a teen has watched helplessly as their sweet baby morphed into something not nearly as sweet.

The first thing to do is take a deep breath and summon up as much patience as you can—you’ll need about four years’ worth.
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No more No!

Dear Mr. Dad: I feel like when I spend time with my 2-year old, I’m constantly telling him “no!” Is there some way I can enforce boundaries without being so negative?

A: It’s no wonder that one of the first words kids learn to say is, No. After all, it’s the word they hear the most—even more than mommy, daddy, or their own name. Since two-year olds are on a mission to destroy everything in their path, hearing No is important. But the problem with No is that it eventually becomes background noise and our kids tune us out. And when it comes to health and safety issues, that’s the last thing we want.

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