dont tell your mother

4 Things We Teach Kids When We Say “Don’t Tell Your Mother”

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“Don’t tell your mother.” We’ve all been there, especially in a silly but special moment with our children. Maybe it’s while eating a couple bites of ice cream—right out of the container. Or perhaps you and the kids are planning a special surprise for her. Fun stuff that produces great memories.

But when we use those words scandalously or to cover our own tracks, we have crossed the line. By trying to protect ourselves, we actually harm our sons and daughters by teaching them the wrong lessons. We must shut it down before it even gets to that point. Pause and think about what the long-term outcomes could be if we follow through. Here are 4 bad things we teach our kids when we say “don’t tell your mother.”

1. Lying is OK.

Covering up the truth when we are guilty is the same as lying. It builds a false sense of security and models unhealthy personality traits. Lying weighs us down because we must keep at it in order to avoid being caught. We would expect our kids to fess up, so why wouldn’t we hold ourselves to the same standard? As fathers, we are responsible for setting the tone in our children’s lives for the way we want them to live. Admitting our faults and telling the truth can produce uncomfortable repercussions. It can also create a strong and honorable character. When we forgo lying and tell the truth instead, we provide our children with hope and confidence for them to do the same.

2. You can manipulate others to protect yourself.

When we say “don’t tell your mother” to our kids, we are manipulating them. We are abusing parental authority to get something we want. This takes advantage of their innocence. Unaware of our selfishness, the kids go along with it because Dad said so. This also conveys a message that if they don’t obey, consequences may follow. The children are being taught that this sort of action, if done skillfully, can serve one’s purposes. It sets them up to follow suit as adults.

3. Mom’s authority is conditional.

When one parent undercuts the authority of the other, chaos in the home follows.

When one parent undercuts the authority of the other, chaos in the home follows. This sort of behavior not only pits kids against parents, but it also divides dads and moms. One of a father’s primary responsibilities is to teach his children to honor and respect their mother. Allowing children to get away with something Mom has clearly forbidden teaches them to disrespect her. It exemplifies how to withhold information from her or that when she’s not around, different rules apply. None of this is acceptable.

4. You value your own comfort over that of your child’s.

I once told my daughter that if she ever screws up, I’d rather hear it from her immediately than find out later from someone else. I promised her that though I may be disappointed, the punishment will be far less if she takes ownership. The same principle should apply to us as parents. Perhaps your son or daughter knows a secret you are deceptively withholding from your wife. Are you taking the burden of your secret off of your shoulders and unfairly placing it onto your child’s? If so, reverse course. When fathers model responsibility and leadership, we set our children up for success in school, in relationships, and, eventually, in the workforce.

Sound off: How are you doing with being transparent with your family?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “When it is hard for you to tell the truth?”