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

 
 
Tai Chi
 
  1  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 11:41 am
@OmSigDAVID,
OmSigDAVID wrote:

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


Nope, not Smokey, just a young bear intent on a rabbit, so he didn't hear/see us coming. We slammed on the brakes and merely bumped him -- no real harm done to bear or car.
0 Replies
 
littlek
 
  2  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 11:45 am
I know some families who lie about Santa because if they didn't, their kid might be the one to break it to a peer that Santa is a lie. As a teacher in middle school, it becomes awkward when kids still believe in Santa, but some do even at age 12-13.

My own parents didn't do a lot of lying of any sort. We're all sort of brutally honest.
0 Replies
 
lockeWiggins
 
  2  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 11:54 am
@msolga,
When I was around 4 or 5 everytime I said the words "i cant" my mom would make me say " i can do anything i set my mind 2" 10 times. After a while i believed that i could do anything i set my mind too... and if i didnt accomplish it then obviously my mind wasnt set to it. Ended up graduating top of my class for the first 4-5 years. Then when I found out that I couldnt really do whatever I put my mind to kind of lost motivation... and became content with being c average. But I consider her lies helpfull.

I tell my daughter while shes sleeping that shes the most beautiful girl in the world... (which i believe... but im biased) and I thank her for always being so healthy even though she has a ear infection every month.
wayne
 
  2  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 11:56 am
We try so hard to maintain our childrens' innocence, mostly for our own sake.
I well remember my daughter learning about sickness and death, it was more painful for me than for her, by far. Eventually it became a study involving stopping on the road to inspect dead animals. She became very perturbed once when I refused to go back to examine a dead coyote, as she had not seen a dead coyote yet. Great memories of the growth of an eager mind.
roger
 
  2  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 01:01 pm
@lockeWiggins,
lockeWiggins wrote:

... and if i didnt accomplish it then obviously my mind wasnt set to it.


Oh yeah, that lie! Kind of like a lot of religions. If you really believe and have faith, your prayers will be answered. Your prayers weren't answered? That's your fault. Your faith was deficient.
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wayne
 
  1  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 01:23 pm
@wayne,
And I don't think the coyote was sleeping.
0 Replies
 
Oylok
 
  3  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 01:43 pm
@msolga,
msolga wrote:

Not EVERYONE is going to reach the giddy heights of success.

Their unrealistic expectations & the reality are in for a big collision.

Thing is, what should they be told, instead?


Well, I'm neither a parent nor a teacher--just someone who's had to take a long, hard look at what he wanted out of life.

I think it would be better to tell them all that they all have some kind of positive role to play. "Useful" is more important than "special."
0 Replies
 
djjd62
 
  2  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 01:50 pm
@msolga,
msolga wrote:
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

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calvin_and_Hobbes

you can see the comic strips here

http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/

0 Replies
 
Roberta
 
  2  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 02:11 pm
I was not a child who would readily accept what I was told just because I was told something by an adult. I chose to believe in Santa and the tooth fairy (who looked remarkably like my father) because there was something in it for me. (Oh, I sound awful, but I'm telling you the truth.)

I did not believe that my face would get stuck if I made faces. I did not believe that I would grow big and strong if I ate my vegetables, but I suspected that they were good for me.

The biggest problem was with something that was not presented to me as lies--bible stories (Old Testament). My parents believed they were telling me the truth. I questioned everything and asked questions they had no answers to. I think I made them very uncomfortable.

I think that when parents tell their kid lies, a lot depends on the kid. And because I didn't believe the standard lies, I was not entirely trusting when they told me the truth. I had to figure things out for myself. Therein was the harm of the lies. I had a hard time trusting.

Letty
 
  2  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 02:37 pm
My parents never told me ANYTHING, msolga. I think someone referred to that as the sins of omission. I had to learn it from school or books, or worse still, the street. They were rather old when I was born, and I guess that is one of the reasons.

Of course, as a kid I believed in Santa Claus because I wanted to believe. Same way with the Easter bunny.

0 Replies
 
roger
 
  1  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 02:46 pm
@Roberta,
Didn't you even believe your ears would start flipping if you pushed your belly button?
Roberta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 03:14 pm
@roger,
Now that I might have believed, roger. But that's the first I heard that one. Gonna give it a try.
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Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 03:36 pm
@msolga,
msolga wrote:
Can you recall any lies (or not exactly truths) that your parents told you that you think were completely harmless, fun even?

Now that I think about it, having read Graham's article, I'm surprised to find that the answer is no. No, they didn't tell me any lies at all. The only possible candidate is the existence of god---and my mother, who told it, sincerely thought and thinks it to be true. To me that doesn't count as a lie.

msolga wrote:
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?

"Hurtful" is too much, but here are some lies that pissed me off.
  • First-grade teacher: "Five minus two equals three; three minus two equals one. One minus two? Can't do it. There's no way to subtract two from one." Me: "There is, too! If the temperature outside is one degree, it can cool off by two more degrees, and then the temperature is minus one degree. One minus two equals minus one." Teacher: "Thomas, be quiet." (As an aside: this memory is probably the reason I react badly when Chai tells me to shut up, and why her explanation, "that's how I talk to children", doesn't help.) My teacher probably told us that lie because negative numbers were reserved for a more advanced grade, and because my reply made her job more complicated than she wanted it to be.

  • Geography lesson: "When Christopher Columbus solicited funding for his Eastward trip over the Atlantic, his problem was that Isabella's clueless advisors thought the Earth was flat, and that you can't reach China by sailing East." That is a steaming pile of bull manure. The truth is that these advisors knew that the Earth was a sphere, knew its approximate circumference, and had correctly concluded that an Eastward route to China was way too long to be profitable. Columbus's project made no sense in terms of its stated goals. I think our teachers---and our Geography textbook!---told us that particular lie because ideologies thrive on myths, including the ideology of Enlightenment.

There are more, but my answer is getting too long already.

MsOlga wrote:
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?

None. I tend to get in trouble with grown-ups for being too open with children and young teenagers. Including on this site. Sometimes, though, I tell kids blatant lies on purpose, hoping that they call my bluff and say "bullshit!" to me. Sometimes they don't, in which case I tell them that that was a lie, and that they shouldn't believe everything a grown-up tells them.

MsOlga wrote:
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?

This is where I recur to the American courts' wonderful definition of strict scrutiny: In this case, it means that lies should be narrowly tailored to protect a compelling interest of the child's. More specifically, in Graham's article, I would accept a few of the lies he lists in his section on "protection". All the others I would reject.
0 Replies
 
dyslexia
 
  3  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 03:45 pm
THE LIE told my by my parents;
Truth/Justice/Fair play will eventually triumph
Eva
 
  1  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 03:48 pm
@dyslexia,
Yep, that's one of the biggies.
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Roberta
 
  2  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 03:54 pm
@dyslexia,
My parents never told me that one, dys. One less thing to figure out for myself. They were too buys telling me to clean my plate because people in Europe were starving. I didn't see what one thing had to do with the other. "So send it to 'em. I don't want it," was my response.
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OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 04:31 pm
@dyslexia,
dyslexia wrote:
THE LIE told my by my parents;
Truth/Justice/Fair play will eventually triumph
Well, if u got cawt in the absence, or the opposite, of those
u coud have trouble.
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sozobe
 
  2  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 05:44 pm
Haven't finished the article, spare thought after reading this part:

Quote:
I think it's the anger that would worry me most if I had a 3 year old. I was 29 when I moved to New York and I was surprised even then. I wouldn't want a 3 year old to see some of the disputes I saw. It would be too frightening. A lot of the things adults conceal from smaller children, they conceal because they'd be frightening, not because they want to conceal the existence of such things. Misleading the child is just a byproduct.


I get his point, but I think that's too absolute. There are ways to answer questions truthfully without misleading.

I was having conversations with my kid about awkward subjects from when she was very little -- sex, etc. I think I answered truthfully, just tried to match it to her developmental stage. If she saw a New Yorker cover with two grooms on top of a wedding cake and said "What's that?", I'd say "it's a wedding cake with two grooms instead of a bride and a groom." If she left it at that, fine. If she said "Two men can get married?" I'd say "yes" (and maybe or maybe not qualify it with "in some places.") And on according to her interest level/ questions. I wouldn't plunge right in with the history of Stonewall and the mechanics of gay sex.

I think that's all actually much more analagous to the factual questions than the author seems to think. For example, sozlet's always been interested in science but our answers to her questions have gotten more complicated as she gets older. They're still factual, but started simple and became more complex according to her ability to process the complexity.

By the way, we've gotten to the point where we've had some conversations about sex not just being for procreation, and SHE's profoundly not interested in talking about that. She knows she can ask if she has any questions, but the "concealment" isn't coming from my side. (She has books etc. but is definitely in an ick factor phase.)

Quote:
If parents told their kids the truth about sex and drugs, it would be: the reason you should avoid these things is that you have lousy judgement. People with twice your experience still get burned by them. But this may be one of those cases where the truth wouldn't be convincing, because one of the symptoms of bad judgement is believing you have good judgement. When you're too weak to lift something, you can tell, but when you're making a decision impetuously, you're all the more sure of it.


We've definitely talked about all of that. Science is a big help there (and the fact that she's interested in it). For example we talked about the recent study that showed that teenagers made worse decisions when they thought their friends were watching them -- the friends weren't even there. (That is, "peer pressure" can be applied from within, wanting to impress one's friends even if they aren't applying any type of pressure at all.) Plus all the hot state vs. cold state stuff. (Basically, you can be totally sure you will act one way when you are in a calm, normal "cold" state, but then when you get in a "hot" state all bets are off. Your brain is just different. So it's important to prepare for the possibility of hot-state you sabotaging cold-state you's best-laid plans.)

(Still reading....)

We also don't care about what words she uses, qua using them. I do care HOW she uses them, and whether she understands what sort of damage they can do to people who are bothered by them. (My parents, who thought they were being honest by using "****" casually, as in "I have to go take a ****," set me up for big problems when for example I said that to my grandparents at age 6 or so.)

But she knows 'em all and what they mean and knows that we don't care if she uses them at home (as long as they're not intended to be hurtful anyway). Right now she doesn't like any of them and never seems to use 'em.

Quote:
Without the helplessness that makes kids cute, they'd be very annoying.


This seems really, really wrong. Wonder, curiosity, joy, competence -- there are all kinds of things that make kids un-annoying, helplessness is way down on the list I think.

Anyway, all that and I haven't directly answered your question:

Quote:

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


I'm not sure. My dad and I would do a lot of storytelling that wasn't really overt storytelling, just making stuff up and telling it straight but with the mutual understanding that it wasn't actually true.

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?


There must've been. Most of the ones I can think of I learned about later though (also a pet-death story, I was told it was instantaneous but actually the dog was just wounded and may have been saved by a vet but my dad didn't want to pay).

Quote:
* 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?


Santa et al I guess. I've talked about before (basically sozlet knew it was not any more "true" than plenty of other storytelling-type stuff we do but when I'd ask would say she still believed in Santa because she didn't want the cookies + milk and special Santa presents to stop. Now I know that she knows that I know that... and we still do cookies + milk and special Santa presents.)

Quote:
* 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?


That was pretty much my main point above I guess, I don't think it has to be so either/or. "That's a cake with two grooms" is truthful but also not the "strict" truth in the Stonewall/ mechanics sense.
snood
 
  2  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 06:45 pm
"We love you very much" was a lie?

Sad.
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2011 07:38 pm
@littlek,
littlek wrote:

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.


It has.

I love it. I think Msolga just hasn't happened upon it.
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