The parental tool of lying?

Adam J. West
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An ongoing study provides shocking insights into dangerous deceptions from the most trusted individuals in the life of a child—his parents. Is telling children that Santa is real harmful? Is it simply encouraging them to use their God-given imagination, thereby broadening their future mental potential? What effect does parental lying have on the minds of impressionable youth?

We've all heard, or used, the saying, "Honesty is the best policy"—yet millions of adults function in a way that is diametrically opposite to this sage advice and follow, instead, the path of deception when it comes to their children's behavior and belief system. In regards to the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny (and the list goes on) there are real dangers in the promulgation of lies upon the fragile and believing mind of a child.

The University of Toronto set out to study the under-researched topic of parental lying and stumbled upon some thought-provoking revelations. A disturbing and manipulative parental method came to light—a practice known as "parenting by lying" was seen through the research gathered. "We are surprised by how often parenting by lying takes place," said Kang Lee, one of the researchers. "Moreover, our findings showed that even the parents who most strongly promoted the importance of honesty with their children engaged in parenting by lying."

In establishing what it was that constituted "parenting by lying," the study navigated around the issue of Santa Claus, but why? Why should the prolific lie of Santa's existence not be examined? Why not shed light on the unnecessary and damaging effects of deception from parents toward their children, especially in regards to the iconic round man in the red suit?

Parents are the first association to impressionable youth of what God is like. They are the embodiment, to a child, of what God does, how He interacts, and also what He does not do—which is lie. Children develop a sense of trust versus mistrust within the first years of life and learn to believe, during these formative years, what their parents teach them, reflecting favorably or unfavorably on the moral character and trustworthiness of those charged with their care.

Recently, a Wall Street Journal article titled "The Power of Magical Thinking" described further the importance of imagination to the mental development of a child. While this is an interesting article from a research standpoint, there is a particular paragraph that holds a disturbing concept.

The article states, "If a child asks if the Tooth Fairy or Santa is real, parents might want to assess their child's level of doubt. If the doubts appear strong then the child might be ready and it is time for the truth." Get what was being said here. If, because of the lie the parent told, the child comes to an awareness of doubt—ie., my parent is a liar—then he or she might be ready for the truth! This logic is flawed to say the least! If ever there was a time for truth it is in the impressionable first years of life, yet parents who deny their child's right to know the truth are, indeed, doing them a great disservice.

The article continues, "Ideally, the child will find out for him or herself, like a little scientist, so parents might ask, 'Is there something you saw or heard that makes you think Santa isn't real?' and 'What do you think?'" This child will grow up with a damaged trust center and will doubt, not just whether Santa is real, but if their parents have spoken truth to them in many other areas of life.

Learn the truth surrounding the Christmas holiday so you can teach your children accurately by reading "The Reason for the Season." Also, reject the false parental tool of lying by reading about the value of honesty in The Ten Commandments.

  Originally Published: 29th December 2009