Why I Lie To My Kids

If my son dreams of being a professional soccer player, should I tell him that he doesn’t have a chance?

If my daughter claims to have heard the tooth fairy, should I correct her?

When my kids write letters to Santa, should I have them address the envelope to our house instead of to the North Pole?

Am I lying to my kids if I answered “No” to all three questions above?  Maybe – but I’m fine with that.

To me, being less than honest will allow my kids to hold onto the quintessential, endearing quality of childhood: hope.

My wife and I are fairly transparent with our kids – just ask any of them about the ingredients in a McNugget or how a baby comes out of their mother.  They know these answers firsthand.

At the same time, though, 4 of my 5 believe in Santa Claus and all 5 understand the tooth fairy to be real.  So, as open as we are, we’re not so quick to move our children out of the cute-innocence that makes them adorable for now.

Parents that do otherwise in the name of honesty drive me crazy.

I read an article on Fatherly.com by Ian Sohn that says I’m wrong.  In that piece, Sohn recounts a conversation about his son’s dream to play in the N.B.A.  Sohn describes telling his son that he likely wouldn’t make it.  In being completely honest, Sohn claims, he is teaching his son a valuable lesson about making sound choices and positioning oneself for future success.

I disagree.

Let’s call a spade a spade – this notion of “complete honesty” in parenting is really about softening a potential disappointment for our little ones.

Not only does this honesty teach kids about the pitfalls of such lofty aspirations prematurely, it subtly encourages them to dream more realistically in the future.  To me, that concept is the ultimate oxymoron.

As I see it, parents will likely not have to teach their kids about being realistic – growing up will do that for us.  I think of my dream of playing second base for the Chicago Cubs which ended as a 12 year-old with slow feet and a .111 batting average.

Unless there is a reason to, what is the harm in big, even unrealistic dreams for kids?

I won’t apologize for holding back on being completely honest.  I don’t want my kids to form dreams around reality – I want them to do the opposite, in fact.

I’ll wait to pull off Santa’s beard and redirect my kids’ wish lists.

The tooth fairy will continue to shell out $1 bills.

My son can dream of playing Major League Soccer to his heart’s content.

I enjoy hearing my 7 year-old talk about the buzz of the tooth fairy’s wings as she counts her $2 the morning after I placed it under her pillow.

I don’t call that lying or deception.  I’m allowing my kids to be kids – to be unbridled by reality.  And, with “complete honesty” I can say that this is the one time in their lives where that will be possible.

Dream Silly, Dream Big and Dream On.


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