lying to kids

3 Ways You’re Lying to Your Kids

“Dad, when I get older, can I say bad words like you?” my five-year-old son innocently asked me while laying on top of me during our nightly wrestling session. I had just said the word “crap.” He peered into my eyes and waited for my answer. I quickly said, “No.” And I will admit: I said no because my mind immediately raced to his next day at school, where I imagined he’d look at his teacher and say, “Dad said I could say crap.”

I almost started to justify my use of the word. Well, son, I’m an adult. I can say the word “crap”—leaving my son to think he could say it at a certain age. Thankfully, in the heat of the moment, instead of doing justification gymnastics, I simply said, “You’re right, son. That word is a bad word. When you get older, you shouldn’t say it. Also, I shouldn’t say either. I should be more careful with my words.” But I had almost lied to my son. And I wonder—are there ways we’re lying to kids without even realizing it? I think so. Let’s look at 3 ways you’re lying to your kids.

1. You’re not accurate.

When you bring up a problem, you need to be accurate. What you say must be true. There should be no exaggeration, half-truth, or manipulation in your words. Sometimes, in the moment, I’m at my best when I remember Psalm 141:3, which says, “Lord, set up a guard for my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips.”

2. Your words and actions don’t match.

Have you ever shouted “STOP YELLING IN THIS HOUSE!” at your kids? Or, in a single moment, I’ve told one child to be more kind only to look at another of my kids and unkindly yell, “Stop what you’re doing RIGHT NOW!” We need to be careful that our words and actions match. We can’t teach our kids one thing and then live another way.

3. You aren’t clear.

I have a family member who will remain nameless who often promises my kids he’ll do big things with them. He’ll mention traveling to this city or to that beautiful place. Now, I’m sure his intentions are good. But this person has made these promises since my kids were born. For the last 15 years, he has yet to take my kids on any trips. I take this to heart because it leaves me to deal with the wreckage post-excitement. You can rationalize the behavior all you want, but it’s lying.

Matthew 5:37 says, “But let your ‘yes’ mean ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ mean ‘no.’” We must guard against saying we’ll do something and then not doing it. Let’s be straightforward. We must mean what we say and say what we mean. We should not make a lifestyle of sarcasm, fake plans, passivity, or disguised communication where we say one thing and mean something different. I have a secret that helps me guard against this type of muddy communication—I use as few words as possible. I’ve found the more words we use, the less likely we are to be clear.

Sound off: In what ways have you caught yourself lying to your kids without realizing? 

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Do ever I say I’ll do something and then not do it? How does it make you feel?”