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The lies we tell children. (and the lies we were told as children.)

 
 
msolga
 
Reply Fri 15 Apr, 2011 11:19 pm
Recently I read a long & very detailed article by Paul Graham, titled Lies We Tell Kids.
http://www.paulgraham.com/lies.html

One of the things he said about parents/adults & lying:

Quote:
One reason I stuck with such a brutally simple word (lies) is that the lies we tell kids are probably not quite as harmless as we think. If you look at what adults told children in the past, it's shocking how much they lied to them. Like us, they did it with the best intentions. So if we think we're as open as one could reasonably be with children, we're probably fooling ourselves. Odds are people in 100 years will be as shocked at some of the lies we tell as we are at some of the lies people told 100 years ago.


A very thought provoking read
Perhaps we'll return to it later on in this discussion. (I hope so.)

But this is Saturday afternoon.
Let's keep things simple at this stage.

I looked around & checked out a number of different sites about lying to children .

These are some of the most commonly repeated lies, according to the participants:

Quote:
You are the prettiest girl/most handsome boy in the world

The existence of Santa, the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy

Do this or you’re not going to get “your birthday/Christmas/family vacation

Mommy and daddy are taking a “nap”

Eating your vegetables will make you grow up big and strong

If you play with your privates too much, they’ll drop off

If you keep making that awful face, your face will stay that way for always.

The police arrest children who swear

You're going to do great things some day.

That sleepaway camp was for my benefit, not theirs.

That good people eventually succeed, and that bad people will ultimately be held accountable.

My mom used to tell me that if I misbehaved, she was going to call the cops and have them take me away. She would then proceed to pick up the phone and dial.

"We love you very much"

If you drink a lot of milk, you'll grow to be really tall.

"If you pick your nose, your head will cave in."

If you sneeze, fart, cough and blink at the same time, you will explode. It happens all the time. So don't be surprised to if walk in a room to find someone's spontaneously exploded.

"Free country”

'Father Christmas only comes to good little children'

 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Apr, 2011 11:21 pm
@msolga,
So, is it OK to ask you a few questions about adults & lying?
Feel free to respond to any or all of them:

* Can you recall any lies (or not exactly truths) that your parents told you that you think were completely harmless, fun even?

* Are there any lies you were told as a child which you believe were harmful, or confusing, or hurtful to you? Why do you think they told you these untruths?

* Are there any lies which you were told as a child which you now tell your own children, or else the children you have dealings with? What are they?

* Do you think that adults should be truthful to children at all times? If not, when are lies acceptable, or even preferable to the strict truth in your opinion?
roger
 
  3  
Reply Fri 15 Apr, 2011 11:26 pm
@msolga,
No, but I wish I could remember some of the outlandish explanations Calvin's dad used to tell him. From the Calvin & Hobbs comics, of course.
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Apr, 2011 11:30 pm
@roger,
Well, roger, as I don't know Calvin, you are going to have to supply a little detail here about his relationship with his parents. Smile
msolga
 
  2  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 12:04 am
@msolga,
Looking back on my own childhood & thinking about these questions:

* Can you recall any lies (or not exactly truths) that your parents told you that you think were completely harmless, fun even?

No, but there must have been some, surely?
I was brought up in a very strict family. We (the children) were taught to never question what our parents said. So I probably believed everything that was said .... well, most of the time, anyway. It was certainly in my best interests to.
It was adolescence when I really seriously questioned such things. And also seriously questioned their authority at the same time.


* Are there any lies you were told as a child which you believe were harmful, or confusing, or hurtful to you? Why do you think they told you these untruths?

It was more omissions, I think.
For example, I didn't know until I was an adolescent, that there was another child before me, after my sister, who had died in infancy.
With the same name that I inherited.
When I should have been told this (in some detail that made sense, I'm not sure) but on finding out, years later, a whole lot of things made a whole lot more sense to me.


* Are there any lies which you were told as a child which you now tell your own children, or else the children you have dealings with? What are they?

Yes, silly things like, if you keep pulling awful faces like that, the wind will change & you'll look this way permanently! (Who knows why we say these silly things? )

* Do you think that adults should be truthful to children at all times? If not, when are lies acceptable, or even preferable to the strict truth in your opinion?

As close to the truth as possible, depending on the child's age. Without causing distress or trauma for the child. For example, when a pet I loved died, it would have been better to have been told that that is what occurred, instead of wondering & worrying about the "disappearance". I think children can handle the truth (if sensitively handled) more often than adults think they can .

But about the "strict truth" at all times: let me think about that a bit more ...
0 Replies
 
roger
 
  1  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 12:05 am
@msolga,
His relations with dad straightforward compared to those with that tiger, but still. . . .
Oylok
 
  2  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 12:06 am
@msolga,
Quote:
Can you recall any lies (or not exactly truths) that your parents told you that you think were completely harmless, fun even?


The usual myths (Santa, etc.) that all children believe.

Quote:
Are there any lies you were told as a child which you believe were harmful, or confusing, or hurtful to you? Why do you think they told you these untruths?


The whole business about being special and destined for greatness. Not only is that an unrealistic goal for most children, but it isn't even a goal worth seeking out. Finding friends you're compatible with is far more important. Just ask Pete Townsend's son Tommy.

They probably got those lies from one of the many books on parenting with which the house was always littered.

Quote:
Do you think that adults should be truthful to children at all times?


No, one's children should find out the truth about at the same rate as everyone else.
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 12:36 am
@Oylok,
Quote:
The whole business about being special and destined for greatness. Not only is that an unrealistic goal for most children, but it isn't even a goal worth seeking out.

Ah yes.
I am very familiar with that one, Oylok. (I'm a teacher.)
We tell students that that can achieve all sorts of things, that anything is possible, if they work hard enough.
The fact is, this isn't true at all.
Not EVERYONE is going to reach the giddy heights of success.
This is so obvious in the real world.
But parents & teachers keep saying these things.
Why?
To keep those young people on the ball, to encourage them to not give up, out of concern for their self esteem .....
Students who have actually failed the requirements of year 12, where I live & work, have officially passed.
They've been led to believe that things are just fine when they definitely aren't.
Their unrealistic expectations & the reality are in for a big collision.

Thing is, what should they be told, instead?
(I know what I would do, but I'm interested in what others have to say, so I'll leave it for a while.)


boomerang
 
  2  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 07:17 am
These are very interesting questions, msolga!

I'll have to think back on my childhood a bit but my parents were pretty straight up about things with us but I think I always got the "hard" truths via my oldest sister who used knowledge like a club.

I know I've lied (I prefer to think of it as sugar-coating) a bit to Mo about his first set of parents and why they simply walked away from him with barely a look back.

This comment of yours was very interesting to me:

Quote:
We tell students that that can achieve all sorts of things, that anything is possible, if they work hard enough.
The fact is, this isn't true at all.
Not EVERYONE is going to reach the giddy heights of success.
This is so obvious in the real world.
But parents & teachers keep saying these things.
Why?


Mo is an extraordinarily literal child. I've had to ask his teachers to put a lid on it a time or two. When they tell him he's "doing great" he thinks he's doing great and therefore doesn't need to put any more effort into something because his understanding of it is "great". It actually causes a lot of fights at home.

I know the teachers do it to boost his confidence but it really causes him a lot of frustration and disappointment when all his "greatness" results in a mediocre report card.

What I tell him is that there are a lot of ways to be smart. School rewards one kind of smart but that the further he gets in school the more kinds of smart start to matter.
0 Replies
 
wayne
 
  4  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 08:18 am
As I recall, my mother would tell us some silly untruths from time to time.
My father wasn't the type to tell you any bull, if he thought you weren't ready for the truth he'd put you off with the wait until you're older routine.

I have an older sister, so I was well informed as to the truth of any of the generic lies parents tell, anyway.
I would guess that only-children are far more succeptible to the white lie business than children with siblings. We also had a pretty large group of kids in our neighborhood.
I don't really recall being taken in for long by any lies of that sort.

Raising my daughter, I did my best to be truthful and open with her about reality. Sometimes that is difficult for a parent to do. No one really likes to see their kid experience the sometimes harsh realities of life. My experience tells me that children are much more resilient and capable of dealing with life than we think. I think they might just be better at it than adults, in fact.
0 Replies
 
Ceili
 
  2  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 09:03 am
Aside from the usual Santa and Easter bunny stuff, which I'm pretty sure they went along with because we all have to, to some extent, societal rules and all... We kids were told about Leprechauns, the Banshee and Changelings, which to this day, I'm not really sure are lies or not.. Laughing
They were pretty straight forward about most things and I did my best to make honesty my policy too. I did tell my children one lie that took them years to figure out. Everywhere we went, Alphonse and Eunice, our friendly Seagulls followed us. They'd show up on camping trips or at parks and my kids would feed them because they knew it would be a long flight home, especially if we took a trip to the coast or to the mountains.
I talked to a cop once who told me he hated the policeman lie. He said it left a damaging impression on kids and that many times throughout his career, he saw how kids were scared of him and at times how it had backfired when kids were in trouble.
0 Replies
 
Eva
 
  2  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 09:57 am
The best one my mother told me was that I would be flat-chested if I kept sleeping on my stomach.

(I did, and it didn't.)
OmSigDAVID
 
  2  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 10:05 am

When my girlfriend, Maralyn, was living with me,
I thawt it approached child abuse for her to tell
her 3 or 4 year old daughter the truth qua Santa, at Christmas time.





David
0 Replies
 
Eva
 
  2  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 10:15 am
I once knew a girl who came from a large family (5 kids.) Her mother told all the kids that warm baked goods were poisonous...if you ate them before they cooled down, they would give you a terrible stomachache.

She was in her 20s before she figured out it was a lie. Her mother was always baking something for church, sick neighbors, etc., and it was the only way she could ensure that one of the kids wouldn't nibble at it behind her back before she could take it.
0 Replies
 
Francis
 
  2  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 10:31 am
And after all these years you come to terms with those lovely lies, only to acknowledge that you are between a rock and hard place:

- You lie, all hell broke loose.
- You tell the truth and you are given hell.

Then you shut up but someone will come to say that you are lying by omission..

No way...
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 10:39 am
@Francis,
Francis wrote:
you are lying by omission..
That is an oxymoronic contradiction in terms.
Tai Chi
 
  2  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 10:58 am
When my kids were small we did a lot of camping in a tent trailer -- not exactly an animal-proof structure. My oldest was particularly worried about bears. We told him there were no bears on Manitoulin Island because it was too far for them to swim from the mainland. Then, one day, we hit a bear...
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 11:08 am
@Tai Chi,
Tai Chi wrote:
When my kids were small we did a lot of camping in a tent trailer -- not exactly an animal-proof structure. My oldest was particularly worried about bears. We told him there were no bears on Manitoulin Island because it was too far for them to swim from the mainland. Then, one day, we hit a bear...
What kind of a bear was he ?

Not Smokey, I hope





David
Francis
 
  1  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 11:14 am
@OmSigDAVID,
OmSigDAVID wrote:

Francis wrote:
you are lying by omission..
That is an oxymoronic contradiction in terms.


But not in meaning..

By the way, your assertion is a pleonasm..
0 Replies
 
littlek
 
  2  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 11:40 am
@msolga,
MsO! You don't know Calvin!? I'm not easily surprised by what makes it out of America and what doesn't, but Calvin and Hobbs is one of our things that should have made it to all corners of the earth.
 

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