Should you ever lie to kids? This became a topic of conversation in my life in the last few years, because I’ve been around kids so little, they were just beginning to grasp the fact that there are such things as “real” and “pretend;” “good” and “bad;” and “true” and “false.” Those are big concepts.
I was brought up around adults who did not mind quizzing, teasing, and “fooling” kids. Often, in fact, what they were doing was pushing and challenging me to see if I would back down and abandon my own initial judgement on any issue.
Their point was, if your eyes and your common sense and your own good judgement tell you something, trust your own judgement before you trust other people. Trust other people AFTER they have proven to you they are trustworthy, and not before.
The kind, intensely Christian man who gave me a second mortgage on my first house (a Vendor Take Back mortgage he extended from his personal funds to a single working mother with three kids), once asked me, “Would you lend me $10,000 if I asked you for it?”
“Of course, if I had it,” I answered without hesitation.
“Would you loan $10,000 to a total stranger?” he pursued.
“No,” I answered, assuming that was the answer he was looking for.
“So, what does that tell you?” he persisted.
I was drawing a blank; was I not a kind and generous enough person to pass this test?
“If you are ever going to get swindled, it will be by someone you know and trust!” he sighed in evident exasperation.
This little clip from the James Randi biopic “An Honest Liar” about what magicians have to teach people sums up the idea perfectly:
“Some people cannot believe that a magician can fool them in such a way that they can’t figure it out. But magicians can, and magicians do. Swindlers do; con men do it all the time. They’re not magicians, they’re fakes. They’re lying to us. They’re deceiving us.
“It’s okay to fool people, as long as you’re doing it to teach them a lesson, which will better their knowledge of how the real world works.”
Ironically, when I contacted the director of the film for permission to use the video clip above in this post, he replied:
Thank you for asking. Most people would just take it. You have our permission to use the quote on your site.”
The idea that I – or anyone else – would have stolen a clip about swindling people made me laugh a little sadly. It’s a big world full of people who will swindle, steal, cheat and lie. Even kids and trusting adults need to be alert to this: it’s how the real world works.
Teaching kids to trust their own good judgement is perhaps one of the most important thing parents ever do.