A Letter to Dishonest Moms & Dads

Dear Moms & Dads,

It happened the other day; one of those moments we all dread. My son called me out on a parenting inconsistency. He told me he didn’t get to watch the same shows at age 10 that his little sister gets to watch now thereby informing me that our media standards have gradually lowered. Doh!

So there was a fork in the road there. I could have, in an even-tempered way, thanked him and told him he was absolutely correct. I might have said we needed to really analyze that inconsistency and make some changes, post haste.

But what actually happened…

is that I told him I didn’t really need his help parenting.

Oooooh, you would have said the same thing. Admit it. But it was like spraying a powerful fire extinguisher on a tiny lit match – a little too much emotion for a simple teenage observation (albeit a snarky one).

What do we do with these moments when we’ve been “found out?” What happens when our kids start to examine our decisions with their own young adult lens and find those decisions to be lackluster?

It reminds me of a book I love, Pinocchio Parenting; 21 Outrageous Lies We Tell Our Kids by Chuck Borsellino. Chuck B. says sometimes we tell our kids things that aren’t true to save them from being sad, mad or scared. We might say things like:

“Your fish went to live with their friends in the ocean.”

“Just tell me the truth and I promise I won’t get mad”

“If you make that face again, your face will freeze that way.”

Or some more broad ones like:

“You can be absolutely anything you want to be in this life.”

“You can achieve any goal you set your mind to.”

“Looks don’t matter; it’s what’s on the inside that counts.”

“It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose its how you play the game.”

Our purposes may be noble, but Borsellino says we lie to our kids for three main reasons.

  1. To help them make sense out of their circumstances
    That’s OK honey; he wasn’t good for you anyway.

  2. To bring assurance to their anxieties
    Looks don’t matter, it’s what’s inside that counts.

  3. To inspire them to reach beyond their limits
    If you can dream it, you can do it.

The problem is—while each of these statements sounds good, none of them are true. Each one contains a little bit of fact and a little bit of fiction.

When we tell our children things that aren’t true (even with the best intentions) we lose our credibility with them in the long run and we set their beliefs up now for failures tomorrow.

I just heard Neil Patrick Harris being interviewed about his new autobiography and he says this about his parents, “They very much wanted us to embrace those things which we responded to so they didn’t push us into football. We were in little league baseball but they quickly saw that I wasn’t so good at it and wasn’t so interested in it and so then being able to be in…theater was something I was rabid about and would talk about all the time and thankfully they didn’t tell me that was bad and that the other was good. They let me do my thing and it empowered me to want to be better at it.”

And a Doogie was born.

What is something you’ve said to your kids that has the potential to be untrue down the line? Did you tell your son who is destined to be 5’1” that he could be in the NBA if he put his mind to it? Did you tell your daughter who trips more than she remains standing that she has a future in the Bolshoi ballet?

Probably not. But maybe there are things we could examine in our encouragements that could stand to be reviewed.

And trust me, friends. I’m under review right now. Just ask my kids. I gotta wrap this up so I can cue up The Walton’s or Little House on the Prairie to watch with the fam later.

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