There are a few things that are, for me, principles of parenting that should not be violated. One of them is that parents should not lie to their children.

To me, it seems like a “no-brainer.” Our children need to be able to trust us. Without trust, they cannot feel safe and secure. That means that they should be able to trust the things that we tell them. Therefore, except in rare, extreme situations, we should be very careful to tell them the truth.

So it came as a shock to me that today I heard of two instances where the parents lied to their children. They lied when there was no good reason to lie. One lied because it was easier for her than explaining things to her children and the second lied because she wanted to say what she needed to say to calm her daughter down.

In the case of the first mother, her lie will become clear when the family is invited to the wedding of their uncle and his “wife” who, their mom told them, were already married. The children will find out. It’s a sure thing. And then what will they think of their mother?

The second case, though is much more toxic. In this case, the teenage daughter had feelings of not being respected and not being taken seriously. She had good reason not to trust her mother who had failed to protect her in the past. She pleaded with me to ask her mother to honor a very reasonable request she had made of her. I did so. The mother told me that she would comply with her daughter’s request. I spoke with the daughter and told her that her mother had agreed. Today, three days later, the mother called in a panic. The daughter had become very angry and upset. In the course of explaining what had gone on in the last couple of days, the mother spoke of having twice done what her daughter asked her not to do. The mother had called me to ask me to speak with her daughter. I said to her, “What about the promise you made to her?” She said, “I never promised.” I said, “You told ME that you would comply!” She said, “Well, that was for THAT day.” I told her that now that I had no credibility with her daughter since she had lied to me and I had vouched for her, she needs to find someone who will have credibility to help the daughter.

I think that what I did may have shocked the mother, but I needed to shock her because she has denied her daughter the most important gift we give our children, security. If a parent is not reliable, if a parent lies, if a parent pretends to respect the child and doesn’t, then the child will lack the security he or she needs to grow up whole and healthy.

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