No Family Secrets, No Matter What, Ever.

Letter about this story on salon.

Family secrets are the beginning of all social hypocrisy. It may be a shame that young children have to hear about the murder of a family member. But it’s worse when they are lied to as children–by their parents no less. What message do you think that’s sending? I hold my parents accountable for every lie, withholding and deception they ever practiced while I was growing up. Now I’m 41, and I still consider them to have been self-serving hypocrites.

Your 4 year old will remember until the day he dies that one of the earliest things you told him was a lie. Resist the temptation. Trade a little trauma and heartache now for a lifetime of trust. You’ll be glad you did.

Comments (7 comments)

Aaron Kinney / December 6th, 2005, 12:13 pm / #1

So true. While myths like the Stork and Santa Claus can be “fun,” to portray them to your children as actual fact, not just an entertaining myth, will be noted when said children eventually learn the truth, usually from one of their peers.

These kinds of things will make a child distrust his/her parents over the long run. And to be told the truth by a peer or friend about the lies of one’s parents will encourage the child to trust his/her friends rather than parents, which isnt a good thing, especially once they become a teenager and have to deal with drugs and sex.

Trust is something that has to be maintained, and it can only be maintained through practice. That means to practice what one preaches, and to deal with one’s children in a truthful manner. If an adult would not lie to his own peers, how could he justify lying to his children?

Jon / December 6th, 2005, 8:13 pm / #2

How can you be angry at your parents for lieing about Santa Clause?

“Now I’m 41, and I still consider them to have been self-serving hypocrites.”

I have two words. Let go.

BlackSun / December 6th, 2005, 9:14 pm / #3

Aaron, right on.

It’s all about the timing and degree of truth telling. Myths and imaginary friends are fine for children of a certain age, but parents need to be ready to gently guide a child into the truth. It is fine not to reveal the entire truth, but to lay a foundation of general information that does not require self-contradiction. Then later when a child is ready to handle it, the picture can be fleshed out. But telling a child something patently false is guaranteed to have costs that appear later in life.

Jon – The statement about self-serving hypocrites, ahh, wasn’t about Santa Claus–or grandma, or the usual stuff.

My parents lied not only to me, but to thousands of other people about big stuff–god, the afterlife, and religion. And they used this information to create fear and manipulate people into doing their bidding. I grew up amidst the madness, of a cult called Church Universal and Triumphant. Today, debunking that cult and religion in general are an important purpose (not the most important, which is knowledge) in my life. Let go? Four words: No I will not.

Aaron Kinney / December 7th, 2005, 8:56 am / #4

You know I remember when I was a kid and I would play with my toys. I would make entire worlds with Legos, hav epic battles with GI Joes, and so on.

But the entire time, I knew it was make-believe. I knew it was pretend. I knew it was playtime.

Parents, I think, can join their children in these worlds of make-believe, but rather than push these things as truth, parents should remind their children that there is a difference between make-believe and reality. I think it would be fine for a parent to share holiday myths and other stories with their children, while making sure their child knows 1) what the word myth means, and 2) what is and is not a myth.

Aaron Kinney / December 7th, 2005, 8:57 am / #5

By the way I noticed your “BSJ Spirituality” sidebar. Im pleasantly surprised to see that I already own two of the books listed in your sidebar: The End of Faith, and Demon-Haunted World.

Carl Sagan and Sam Harris are my heroes!

Francois Tremblay / December 7th, 2005, 3:34 pm / #6

I’ve got to agree with you on that. Honesty is not just a virtue, it’s also, according to the maxim, the best policy. How much truer this must be towards the children we are trying to raise into honest adults. Virtue must be exerted with diligence towards children.

A healthy fantasy life can be built without lies. Let this be known.

Jon / December 10th, 2005, 7:36 pm / #7

Ahh.. I didn’t realize you weren’t talking about Santa Clause.

I retract my comment.

I’d like to talk about the church sometime, email, chat, etc. I happen to be a “member”.

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