It's easy to tell our kids little white lies to buoy them up when they are down. And sometimes that's a good thing. How they feel about themselves gives them a better attitude and helps them make it through tough times.
There are, however, times when the absolute truth is called for. When it comes to long-term effects, we need to weigh our words carefully.
Here are some lies that should never be told by parents to their children.
You're the best _
Piano player, artist, poet, math student, fill in the blank. This is a lie that should not be told, particularly if they are not. Speaking to your children in superlatives can give them an exaggerated sense of self. Tell them they are very good. Tell them their practice is really working. Tell them you believe in them. Tell them you are proud of their efforts. Celebrate individual accomplishments. But, refrain from telling them they are the best.
You're the worst _
Child, student, sister, brother, example, fill in the blank. They're not. You might be at the end of your rope, but chances are, so are they. If they are acting out, get to the source of the trouble. Don't label them. Tell them what they are doing is bad, but at their core, you know they are good. Ask what is troubling them and then follow-through. Don't give up.
Everything is great!
It's not always. This is a common lie we tell our kids to give them comfort during stressful times. Times when the bills are behind, or the job is on the line or someone is suffering. Rather than lie about the state of affairs, tell them the truth. Things are rough right now, but your outlook is positive. You believe that eventually things will work out. You have hope. But if everything is not great, don't tell them it is. They are intuitive and will read dire things into their feelings. Make them aware of problems, not necessarily graphically, but let them know when you are struggling with something, adding that you have hope of resolution.
Everything is awful!
It never is. There's always something good to say. Negativity breeds negativity. Children brought up hearing how stupid and worthless everything and everyone is—government, teachers, employers, neighbors, grow up with a clouded view of the world. Be careful how you speak about people and things. Try to get in more positive compliments than negative complaints.
You'll never __
Get into college, have a happy marriage, amount to anything, be happy, fill in the blank. Another bad lie that covers both superlatives and negativity. Double whammy. The truth is, there is very little your child can't carry out with self-esteem and support. Keep it positive, and never tell them they can't. Be honest, and tell them it might be difficult and challenging, but that you believe in them. Even if they don't accomplish the difficult task, they will know you are in their corner.
When we see our children doing things they love — reading, magic tricks, dancing, drawing — we should try to support them, even if it's not something we want to imagine them doing in the future. We don't know. Doing what they love will help keep them positive, hopeful and happy. That doesn't mean we should allow those things to take over their lives, their homework time, their chores and responsibilities, but it does mean we should try to help them find time. I'm sure behind many brilliant artists, scientists and scholars are parents who had to bite their tongues watching them as they grew.
Our children have the potential to change the world, or at least someone's life, for the better. Our job is to do our best to keep things positive, to encourage them and support them in their dreams. We owe it to them to try to provide them with an incubator in which to thrive and teach them to believe in themselves and to be self-reliant. We need to be honest, truthful and kind.