I have two kids.
I don't lie to them. When my son was in utero nine years ago, I decided that I would not.
Not at all. Not about Santa Claus. Not about sex or violence. Not about my past. Not about my fears and emotions.
I've never needed to doctor my tales of depravity. My vow of honesty has kept my relationship with my kids clean in a way that I have trouble describing. Kids can handle this honesty. Kids need this honesty.
The way that a child gains the skills of an adult is through practice. The more the better. My kids can think about sexuality, homosexuality, deviant sexuality, violence -- good and bad, recreational drug use, philosophy, values, religion, and everything. The more they think about this stuff, the more they will have worked out when it comes time for them to make big decisions in their lives. My mother is a musicologist and a scholar on Richard Wagner. I had no trouble dealing with the incredible power of his great works while also reflecting on his ugly personality.
The reality is that all people do things that we might classify as good and bad. Kids should know that early on.
I'm thirty-two and my son is eight. He's having some of the same problems with the rigidity imposed by school that I did. I was a part time hellraiser in response to the way that I got along with the adult controlled institutions in my life. I wasted a lot of my time doing stupid stuff.
My son could end up in the same boat making the same dumb mistakes.
One of the ways that I see myself helping him to avoid some mistakes is through candid discussion of my own exploits, both the good and the bad, and what I was thinking and trying. I had sex when I shouldn't have. I victimized people who didn't deserve it. I was suspended and then expelled from school in the seventh and eighth grades for various discipline problems. I made many of the classical mistakes of the teenage years. And some of it was good.
My son loves my stories. He knows as much about sex as he wants to. He knows that sometimes people have sex with members of their same sex, and how to do it, and that there's nothing wrong with it as long as everyone enjoys. He knows that I think that sometimes beating someone is a good idea -- but not usually. He knows that rules can be followed or ignored and that just because a rule is inane doesn't mean he won't be punished for his disobedience.
He can take it. They all can!
Teleny writes, "don't burden the story with needless information." Sure -- that's a fine approach to any telling, but it is also very different than misleading the listener. It needn't be different for juvenile audiences than for adult friends.
Teleny presents a false dichotomy with "...believe me, it's often a lot better to handle it this way than to have to stumble through a detailed explanation...." Lying to your kids and "stumbling through a detailed explanation" are not the only options. This alludes to the phenomenon of a well meaning adult going into overwhelming detail in order to assure that the education of the child is not neglected. I find it is easy to simply supply the information for which the child asks. When my son asked, "how do you have sex?" I didn't go into foreplay and oral sex, sensual massage and latex lingerie. I just said "you put your penis in your partner's vagina and rub it in and out a bunch of times. It feels really good to both people, but takes some practice. It's best if you usually wear a latex condom to prevent pregnancy and infection." He asked a couple more questions about condoms and we moved on to another topic. But that was when he was five.
He asks for more detail now. My suggestion is to just let the audience (of any age) determine how much depth you provide. Coming up with an elaborate system of how and when to lie is needlessly complex when you can just serve up the truth in the portions that they want.