Good dads never lie.
What bull. All parents lie to their kids, including moms—even BLUNTmoms.
Parenting is the world’s hardest job, and childrearing survival often demands parental fictionalizations. There’s no way I could navigate the challenges of single fatherhood without fake truths.
I’m also a psychologist, so I’m not advocating outright lying because it’s pathological. Also, I don’t want the cancel culture mob to torch my “Best Dad Ever” t-shirt. The key is knowing when and how to bend the truth.
My fabrications are more like fibs. Minor distortions that promote a child’s well-being. That’s not true, but whatever.
I started fibbing to my son early on. I relied on brief, factually challenged proclamations meant to make single-parenting easier. “I can’t find the binkie.” “The store is closing.” “McDonald’s ran out of nuggets.”
At first, I felt guilty about creating falsehoods. Yet, I wanted my kid to be like the rat I trained as an undergraduate – respond quickly, appreciate the treat, and don’t ask questions. Sadly, the fastest way to get my son to press the bar was to fib.
Over time, simple untruths became elaborate tales. The first whopper occurred when I was conducting the bedtime dental hygiene interrogation. “Did you brush your teeth? Really? Brush and not pretend brush? With toothpaste?”
My son’s answers were ambiguous, and it was clear that the lie fairy was providing consultation. So, I created the teeth police fable.
“Every night, when kids are sleeping, they are visited by the teeth police. They have special powers and can tell if a kid brushed or pretended to brush. If they didn’t brush, the teeth police will make a tooth fall out. Not right away but eventually. That’s why grandma is missing a few teeth. She didn’t brush as a kid and lied about it. Ask her. So, you want to lose some teeth?”
The fear of being busted by the teeth police got the three-year-old to brush his teeth. Quickly. Voluntarily. Properly.
Yes, I lied. Is that emotional abuse or BLUNT fathering? While you ponder, let me add a postscript.
A few days after introducing the teeth police, my son went to the bathroom, and I asked if he washed his hands. Given that I didn’t hear anything other than a flush, he clearly did a fake clean, and the lie pixie was hovering. I couldn’t stop my inner storyteller.
“Remember the teeth police, and how they make a tooth fall out if a kid lies about brushing? There are also handwashing police. And they can tell if a child washed their hands after going potty. If a kid doesn’t tell the truth, you know what falls off? No, not your hands. Guess again.”
My son now has the cleanest teeth and hands because daddy told a bunch of fake truths. That’s BLUNT fathering, and I ain’t lying.
About the author: Dr. Mark Shatz is a single-dad, psychologist, and author of Comedy Writing Secrets (3rd ed). His favorite pastime is watching his son outsmart “proven” parenting techniques.