Should You Lie to Your Kid? The Great Debate

Ana Connery
December 21, 2015

Kids are nothing if not curious, peppering their parents with questions from the moment they’re able to form them. The older they get, the deeper they seem to probe, and the harder it gets for moms and dads to tell them harmless fibs without fear of getting caught. From “where do babies come from?” to the more prickly “did you ever smoke pot?” and “why are you and dad fighting?” there are moments when every parent is tempted to tell a big, fat lie — or at least gloss over the truth.

Kids’ queries are not the only things that prompt parents to lie. Depending on the child’s age, there are plenty of situations that most experts and parents agree may actually call for a bit of dishonesty. Sometimes we do it to protect our kids from events we don’t think they’re mature enough to handle, such as a terror attack or a family member’s terminal diagnosis. Other times we’re protecting our own privacy (“What were you and Aunt Lucy talking about on the phone?”) or trying to spare their feelings (“Why wasn’t I invited to Beth’s party?”), and when they’re younger, we often do it to encourage good behavior (“Santa is watching.”)

STORY: Is Preschool Necessary? The Great Debate

But when is it OK to lie to your kids, and when should you opt to tell the truth? And perhaps just as important, does lying to your kids do more harm than good over the long run?

What the research says

Eighty-four percent of Redbook magazine readers surveyed admit to lying to their kids about once a month, and more than 76 percent of them said they felt guilty about telling their kids lies.

OK, so we’re lying to our kids, but is that harmful? The answer may depend on a host of factors, including age, maturity level, and the nature and purpose of the deception. Here’s something to consider: A University of California, San Diego study found that the more children are lied to, the greater the likelihood that they themselves will cheat and lie. The takeaway seems to be to choose your fibs wisely and, for goodness’s sake, space them out.

STORY: Should You Get Genetic Testing on Your Unborn Baby? The Great Debate

Another research study, this one from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found that kids can tell if parents are committing “sins of omission” — that is, only telling half-truths, prompting children not to trust them. “This shows that children are not just sensitive to who’s right or wrong,” lead author Hyowon Gweon told Time magazine. “Children can also evaluate others based on who’s providing information that is enough or not enough for accurate inference.”

What the experts say

“There are no hard and fast rules about what is and isn’t OK to lie to your kids about,” social worker and family therapist Jennifer Mansell told Today’s Parent. “Instead, it’s important for parents to examine the intent behind their lies.” Most experts seem to agree that there isn’t a need for chronic lying, nor for lying simply for the sake of it. When it’s to preserve a tradition such as Santa Claus or the tooth fairy, for example, the benefits of the lie will likely outweigh the costs until kids reach the appropriate age. “When your kid starts questioning the likeliness of these characters, it’s time to come clean,” Mansell says.

What about more difficult subjects, such as whether you experimented with drugs or alcohol as a teen? “Part of your job as a parent is to cater what you divulge to the age and development of your child,” Michele Borba, author of 12 Simple Secrets Real Moms Know, told Redbook. “Often, it’s smarter to tell just a little part of the story rather than the whole messy truth.” For example, maybe you tell your generally responsible 16-year-old that you tried alcohol, but a mischievous and rebellious teen (or tween) is told an entirely different story. Manipulating the truth a little is sometimes the most responsible thing a parent can do.

What if you’re caught in a lie? Chances are your kid will be upset and you might feel a bit foolish, both of which will usually quickly pass. But if it happens a lot, your child may start questioning everything you say and stop trusting you altogether. “Kids need their parents to be a rock of certainty, and each lie is a chip off that certainty,” Nancy Darling, professor of psychology at Oberlin College, told Redbook. You don’t want to lie so often that kids become chronic fibbers themselves, nor do you want to lie to the point that you miss opportunities to discuss difficult subjects, such as sex or illness. “I think your children look to you to be their protector and guide and instruct them,” psychologist Jennifer Hartstein, PhD, told CBS News. “The more [lies] we tell, the less likely they are going to be to trust you — and trust other people.” This can backfire when those teachable moments arise and it becomes critical that they not only hear what you have to say, but trust your words too.

What the parents say

“I have a younger sister who loves to tell tales to her nieces and nephews about when their parents were young and the mischief we got ourselves into. Now that my kids are in their teens, I think it’s about age-appropriateness. It’s probably not a good idea to tell my teenage son that I snuck out of the house after bedtime to meet my friends. However, sometimes a little white lie might make the world a happier place for everyone, and it’s in the best interest of the child not to know the truth.” — Julie Sheehan Bergin, Lynbrook, N.Y.

“I want my sons to feel like they can trust me, but at the same time, they don’t need to know every little thing. Otherwise they will worry about things they can’t control. If a parent loses a job, for example, that can sound scary to a 9-year-old. It’s a delicate balance.” — Jeffrey Downey, Columbus, Ohio

“I recently lost a very dear friend to breast cancer. It was a long and painful six-year battle. The family chose not to tell the daughters (ages 6 and 13) until the weekend before she passed. This haunts me. I have no idea when you tell your children this horrible news, but both are very bright and watched her body be taken over first by chemo, then cancer. I wonder with a grief-ridden, torn heart what that has done to their childhood — to their trust. There is no easy answer.” — Melissa Bilash, Wayne, Pa.

The bottom line

You’d be hard-pressed to find an expert who will tell you that lying to kids about whether the zoo is open is going to harm them, especially when they’re young. But if you do feel the need to lie, you probably want to tailor the lies to their age, telling them as much of the truth as your instincts deem necessary at the moment. If you do tell a few lies here and there when you feel it’s appropriate, don’t feel guilty about it, but try not to do it often. Over time, kids may begin to distrust you, and you may end up missing out on opportunities to teach them important life lessons.

Ways you can support your kids’ school and teachers

Ways you can support your kids' school and teachers

(BPT) – With school back in session, you might hear your kids talking about the activities they get to do in class, on field trips or in after-school activities. To make all these extra adventures successful learning opportunities for your kids, they require financing and manpower. So what can you do to keep the extracurricular programs going strong?

Here are some tips to help the teachers at your kids’ school continue to offer those extra programs your children rave about when they get home:

* Volunteer – Chaperones and volunteers are always needed for school activities. Your school might require a background check, so be sure to volunteer your services early in the year to get that process out of the way. Ask the teachers if they have a volunteer sign-up form or process so you can participate in the activities where you are able. And it’s not just the classroom activities where extra hands are needed ? other areas of the school like the library or the school newsletter might also benefit from a volunteer’s help.

* Join the parent booster clubs – At the middle and high school levels, booster clubs are established. They’re often for sports teams, but other club groups like theater, speech and the marching band often have booster clubs as well. These clubs are involved in fundraisers and lobbying for funds from the district to support the school group.

* Support programs that support teachers – Many businesses and programs take the initiative to support schools and teachers. For example, Staples donated $1 million to, a crowdfunding non-profit where teachers create project requests for classroom resources. Since 2000, $267,248,616 has been donated to support 297,226 projects in 58,722 schools across the country. It’s thanks to donations like the $1 million from Staples and individuals like yourself that these crowdfunding programs are successful. Be sure to let your teachers know about these crowdfunding opportunities if they have any classroom needs.

* Use your talents to help students – Schools often need tutors to help students in all subject areas. Additionally, at the high school level, students are trying to figure out what they want to do in the next stage of their lives. If you are in a career where you can offer a mentorship program, you can provide excellent career-starting opportunities for the school district and students. This tutoring and mentorship support will take many students far – further than they can go without your help.

As the school year progresses, you may find additional ways you can support your kids’ school and teachers. Be sure to share your support, whether in person or financially, so you can make a difference in the lives of your kids.

Childproof your finances: Tips for new parents

(BPT) – Whether welcoming a newborn, adopting a child or becoming a stepparent for the first time, bringing a child into your life means big changes – and a big impact on your finances.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, parents of children born in 2013 will spend approximately $245,000 – per child – on housing, education, food, clothing, child care and other expenses until the age of 18. With that kind of monetary commitment looming, new parents need to childproof their finances against life’s unpredictable situations and consider the potentially costly insurance implications of each stage of their child’s life.

Securing finances against the unforeseen

Americans work hard to keep their children safe – from retrofitting a home for a new baby to teaching a teenager safe driving habits and everything in between. But despite best intentions, on average, parents spend an estimated $11.5 billion annually on injuries to children according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Throughout a child’s life, parents and guardians can face many unexpected financial hurdles related to injuries or illness,” says Adam Hamm, National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) president and North Dakota insurance commissioner. “Parents need to educate themselves about the risks, challenges and insurance implications of raising a child to reduce injuries, save money and potentially even save a life.”

Safety risks and unpredictable circumstances can arise in a variety of ways. Consider the following:

* Birth defects affect one in every 33 newborns according to CDC statistics. Babies who live with birth defects may face lifelong challenges, so it’s important to know if your health insurance covers pre-natal and neo-natal screenings, emergency delivery procedures and extended hospital stays.

* The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that 44 percent of playground equipment injuries occur at home. Parents should double check their liability coverage to ensure it covers playmates who are hurt on their property.

* The CDC also reports that 46 percent of teens don’t wear seatbelts when riding with friends, significantly increasing their risk of injury or death in an auto accident. Something as seemingly simple as a teen driving contract can hold kids accountable – saving money and lives in the process.

Take action now

Understanding the insurance implications of a new child can be tricky. Get a jump on preparations by exploring the following:

* Determine if paid maternity leave is included in your health benefits. If you anticipate needing extra time off, a short-term disability policy might be helpful.

* Ask your employer about a flexible spending account that can be used to set aside pre-tax dollars to cover medical expenses and child care costs.

* Consider the impact on your auto insurance premiums if your expanding family compels you to purchase a larger vehicle. Shop rates and consider different models before you buy. Rates will vary depending on make, model, age of vehicle, etc.

* A new dependent means you should reassess your life insurance. Will your current level of insurance be enough to secure your child’s future if the unthinkable happens to you? Consult with your insurance agent or use an online calculator to determine if you need additional insurance.

* Adoptive parents, stepparents and custodial guardians should also check with their health insurers to determine a new child’s coverage eligibility. Life insurance policies, investment accounts and other financial accounts may need to be updated to reflect a new child as a beneficiary.

For more “first steps,” check out Get Ready resources for new parents at The resource kit includes tips, questions to consider and things to do to childproof your finances before a new bundle of joy joins your family.

The secret to achieving better work-life balance

The secret to achieving better work-life balance

(BPT) – If you’re feeling overworked and finding it a challenge to juggle the demands of your job and the rest of your life, then you’re not alone. Achieving the elusive work-life balance may be getting harder with today’s connected lifestyle, but it is still possible.

A better work-life balance doesn’t just happen overnight. It requires a lot of patience, careful thinking and attention toward understanding what is most important to you and your family. First you must focus on prioritizing your personal and professional life. Consider all the things that compete for your time. Then decide what to keep and what to discard. Think of it as streamlining your priorities, sorted by the activities that are the most important.

“No matter how hard you try, you can’t squeeze more hours into your day,” says Dr. Nancy Aragon, professor of industrial organizational psychology at Argosy University, Online Programs. “What you can do though is make more efficient use of your time. It takes persistent planning to get a management system started, but keeping a time diary helps you to become more aware of where your time is being spent.”

Aragon recommends a weekly block schedule coupled with a daily to-do list. The block schedule should be a fairly permanent, regular weekly plan that allows adequate time for necessary, recurring activities such as cooking, exercising, homework, grocery shopping, work, etc. A critical element to include in the block schedule is “flexible time” or free time that is purposely built into your schedule. Scheduling flexible time is a way to account for unexpected, but inevitable events to be worked into your life with minimal disruption to your regular routine. In effect, you plan for the unexpected.

And although technology has the potential to improve the quality and efficiency of your daily life, it also has the potential to encroach on your work-life balance. “Set boundaries when it comes to technology,” says Aragon. “Schedule time for you and your family when it comes to accepting calls, texts, or emails. Make sure everyone is on the same page in terms of what acceptable technology use is, and what crosses the line into technology abuse.” In other words, technology doesn’t have to be eliminated, but its use does need to be purposefully managed and monitored.

Also keep in mind the power of attitude. Learn to monitor your attitude and its impact on your work performance, relationships and everyone around you. A positive attitude can make a big difference in your energy, your focus and your pace toward achieving balance. You can’t always change your circumstances, but you certainly can change how you react to them.

In addition, do not try to live up to other’s expectations. “Work-life balance is a very personal matter. If you seek to find your own balance by emulating the ideals, priorities and expectations of others, you are doomed to miss the mark,” adds Aragon. “It can require some courage to live by your own values and ideals rather than what seems to be the prevailing social norm, but the payoff is worth taking that venture out of your normative comfort zone.” This is an important truth to keep in mind for not only improving your work-life balance, but also finding success.

In the end, you need to find the right balance that works for you. Celebrate your successes and don’t dwell on your failures. Life is a process, and so is striving for balance in your life.

Nomophobia: When a modern smartphone affliction leads to addiction

people on cell phone
Nomophobia: When a modern smartphone affliction leads to addiction

(BPT) – Everyday technology consumes everyone’s lives as the phone, computer, tablet and other high tech devices have become not just an object, but also a close companion. And for those who are extremely connected to their devices, going without them, even for only a few minutes, can be an anxiety-filled experience.

A majority of American adults (56 percent) own smartphones, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center. Having the ability to check your mail, play games and browse the Internet right in your pocket is a leap forward for technology and staying connected to the workplace, but it may come at a cost.

Nomophobia, or the pathological fear of remaining out of touch with technology, is a relatively modern affliction. It’s basically a side effect from changes the mobile phone has made to human habits, behaviors and even the way we perceive reality. Entire relationships are becoming defined through mobile texting and colorful little emoticons, from saying “I love you” to “I think we should move on.”

So how did it come to this? Have smart­phones become an exten­sion of Americans or is everyone simply becoming victims of a fast-paced, always connected society? Chances are it’s a little bit of both.

Dr. Chuck Howard, licensed psychologist and chair of the psychology programs at Argosy University, Denver, believes it can be more complex than simply stamping a label on the problem.

“Nomophobia is a result of people becoming more and more electronically connected to the point that their technology-based network and relationships become their home community,” says Howard. “Losing that connection is essentially a form of electronic banishment. They fear being tossed out of, or losing their ‘social village.’”

The term was originally coined from a 2010 study by YouGov, a UK-based research organization that wanted to look at anxieties suffered by mobile phone users. The study found that men and women often felt stressed when their mobile phones were turned off.

“Nomophobia can be a symptom of a potential addiction,” says Howard. “Users who are happy and having a good time when on their device, then face great stress and anxiety without it. They may obsess about it. They can’t put it down. This is when actual addiction becomes a threat.”

When you see a behavior becoming destructive, and admit to having a problem, you can handle it in the same way as other types of addiction. “Develop strategies for meeting your social needs in other ways … without depending on an electronic platform,” suggests Howard.

Start by resisting the urge to constantly check your phone. Try limiting your number of mobile social media networks and consider joining more in-person professional networking groups or sports clubs. Set aside some time to leave your phone alone, such as at dinner, with friends or going to sleep.

If it becomes an addiction and begins to strain your relationships, consider asking others around you what they think. Be open to a sort of intervention where friends and family may candidly tell you their thoughts. No need to go cold-turkey, just take some small steps at a time to disconnect and enjoy the world around you, without looking through a smartphone screen. And lastly if you can’t do it alone, then seek professional help.

Parents: School is back in session, time to teach kids vital financial lessons

Parents: School is back in session, time to teach kids vital financial lessons

(BPT) – The first months of the school year are full of new lessons and experiences for children. While subjects like history, science and math aim to prepare kids for college and careers, there’s one vitally important educational goal that falls to parents to fulfill – financial education.

Parents are kids’ number one resource for learning about money. Fifty-one percent of Generation Z children report they were taught financial lessons from their parents, according to a recent survey by TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation (NYSE: AMTD). Only 10 percent said they learned financial lessons from a teacher or school course, and only 7 percent gained their information from websites and blogs.

“According to the survey, the average age when children begin learning the importance of savings is 15,” says Lule Demmissie, managing director of retirement for TD Ameritrade. “But there’s no need to wait. Even younger children can benefit from early conversations about credit cards, retirement planning, saving and investing. Our research shows that children whose parents talk to them about financial responsibility at an early age are more likely to see saving as important, and develop good budgeting habits as adults.”

The TD Ameritrade survey found children need a little extra guidance when it comes to managing credit card debt, saving for retirement and understanding the best ways to invest:

* Older members of Gen Z are accruing credit card debt, with just 43 percent of Gen Z respondents saying they pay off their credit card bills every month, down from 59 percent in last year’s Gen Z survey.

* Most kids anticipate their adult financial priorities will be finding a job, buying a car, paying off student debt, getting married, buying a home and saving for retirement – in that order.

* Just 17 percent say the best way to plan for retirement is investing in the stock market, while 47 percent believe that a savings account is the best way to prepare for retirement.

“Back-to-school time present parents with the perfect opportunity to begin sharing financial lessons with their children,” Demmissie says.

Here are some ideas for parents who are looking to help their children establish good money-management skills now and in the future:

Establish good savings habits early

Explain to children the importance of savings, and how saving money can help protect them when they experience things like job loss or unexpected car repairs. Help them understand how to balance expenses and income, and the difference between a “need” and a “want.” This can help them understand what they can realistically afford. As part of this lesson, it’s important to teach them how to create and follow a budget, so they can avoid getting into debt. Don’t forget technology can also be a valuable tool to help teach those lessons. There are several budgeting and financial apps available that are geared towards kids.

Model the behaviors you want them to learn

Show children how your own family budget shapes up every month – a portion for savings, for investing, for gas, household expenses, etc. When your child asks for spending money, rather than just handing it over, establish a lending arrangement. Agree on repayment terms, including interest, and help your child understand how to make payments and how long it will take to repay. This experience of showing rather than telling can work well when educating kids about money concepts that may be a bit more difficult to grasp like managing debt or budgeting.

Discuss balance

Trade-offs and sacrifices are essential elements of money management. You can help kids grasp these concepts through application. For example, if your daughter wants to buy a $500 tablet but has only $200 saved, help her examine how she can make up the shortfall. Will she work for the money? How long will she need to work in order to get $300? What other purchases or expenses (like a weekly movie) will she need to give up in order to save the money and reach her goal?

Share your experiences

Everyone makes mistakes – such as racking up too much credit card debt in college or waiting until your 30s to begin saving or investing for retirement. Hopefully you’ve learned from your mistakes and can share the benefit of that knowledge with your children early. Be honest with your kids about the financial mistakes you’ve made, what you learned from them and how they can avoid making similar mistakes.

“The more parents can teach their children about money and help them understand things like establishing a monthly budget or the importance of good credit, the more kids will be able use those lessons when making solo financial decisions in the future,” Demmissie says.

For more tips on how to talk to kids about money, visit TD Ameritrade’s Education Center at

Provided by: TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation, brokerage services provided by TD Ameritrade, Inc. member FINRA/SIPC

Drive safely with your newborn by following these tips


(BPT) – Babies change everything. Their arrival means that new parents need to become educated – quickly – on cribs, strollers and most importantly, child-safety seats and all their rules. And as federal recommendations on car seats continue to evolve, parents have one more thing to stay on top of.

The family car safety experts at, in partnership with Toluna QuickSurveys, recently conducted a poll that asked parents what they worried about most when bringing a newborn home from the hospital. Results revealed that 93 percent of new parents listed the fear of other drivers on the road as a top concern when driving with a newborn.

“Every new parent wants to cover the car in protective bubble wrap when driving with their baby. I know my husband and I did,” says editor and expert mom Jennifer Newman. “That isn’t realistic, but there are a few things you can take control of that will help ease your anxiety when driving with your newborn.”

Instead of bubble wrap, Newman suggests:

* Car seat check: Make sure a certified child passenger safety technician inspects your car seat installation before the baby arrives.

* Practice safe driving: It’s going to be tough, especially if your newborn starts wailing, but remember to keep your eyes on the road. If you can’t stop yourself from turning around to check on the baby, pull over and then make sure everything is OK with your wee one.

* Keep the baby in the car seat: If one parent rides in the backseat with the baby, remember that it is never OK to remove the child from a car seat while someone is driving. The safest place for a baby – even one that’s screaming – is in a rear-facing car seat when the car is moving.

* Keep your car properly maintained: Take your car in for regular, scheduled maintenance to ensure everything is in working order and all fluids are topped. Keeping a safe car can create a safer ride for your little one.

These steps allow parents to focus on the road and should lessen some of their concerns about their child’s safety in the car. In addition, Newman also suggests parents skip using items such as a baby mirror in the car. Mirrors and other items like toys that hang from a car seat’s handle can become dangerous projectiles in a crash and harm your child or you.

For more information, visit to learn more tips on child driving safety.