“Lies We Tell Kids” By Paul Graham ~ Personal Response

“Lies We Tell Kids” gave me sooo much to think about especially since I, like I’m sure many people do, find myself in the exact same predicament when it comes to “being lied to.” I like how he considered and even labeled the adults involved in telling lies to kids within society as a “conspiracy.” It also felt especially nice seeing that an adult like Paul Graham, someone who should technically be part of this whole conspiracy, noticing and explaining the lies that are told to “us” and some of its hypocrisy.

After reading this essay, I realized two really significant things. One is that I never actually considered the way in which adults speak to and treat kids as lying, but now that I think about it, I completely agree. Most adults would probably be very offended if a kid/teen accused them of telling lies, but as Graham pointed out, what else would you call it? I guess for adults, they could consider the accusation of them lying as the “ugly truth” for the way the way in which they do in fact actually treat children.

The second thing I realized or had never actually taken the time to think about is WHY children are told these lies.  I was aware of the fact that pretty much all adults, specifically parents (including mine), don’t always tell their children the truth, but I had always just thought the reason was to protect the child from knowing knowledge that’s deemed unnecessary to know at that age.  However, thanks to Graham, I now understand the complexity of why these lies are told, whether its about adults maintaining their authority, prolonging a child’s innocence, or trying to “form” a child’s identity.

I think that’s one of the reasons why being a teenager is so “difficult.”  Since teenagers are stuck in the transition between when their parents talk and lie to them as kids and when their parents talk and lie (probably less) to them as adults.  The most frustrating part is, most kids, with or without their parents support, go out and find the truth behind these lies from school, social media, or even just friends, so wouldn’t it be better if kids found out the truth first and foremost from their parents rather than resorting to other methods of discovery. If adults tell these lies for the sake of their kids and the relationship they share, than shouldn’t they be open and honest with their teenage kids rather than posing the risk of creating a barrier between them and their children with all these lies.

Generally, while reading the essay, I often found myself nodding my head in agreement, specifically for the sections about innocence and authority. I really liked Graham’s example of a “cynical 10-year-old child” and how he states that to see such a child would be “disconcerting.”  I also find it interesting how Graham used the term “jaded” for kids who have “been there and done that.” His unique way of phrasing and explaining points like those really added to the tone of the essay in a positive way, thus probably making it more relatable and easier to understand.

However, I wish this essay had more specific examples rather than making quite a few generalizations because sometimes the Graham’s points were hard to follow.  In other words, it would’ve been nice if he had given more examples of specific lies (like how he mentioned the tooth fairy) so that we could be reminded about a few more of the many lies that are told to kids.  If more examples were given, it would be easier to relate the lies back to the different topics such as authority, identity, detox, etc.

One thing that I disagree with is the part about swearing in the essay.  I agree with the statement that

“Most parents use words when talking to other adults that they wouldn’t want their kids using.”

But I disagree with…

“Everyone knows you’re not supposed to swear in front of kids.”

As unlikely as it may seem, adults do speak differently with other adults than they do with children, but the only difference may not just be the fact that with adults they swear openly while with children they “watch their language.” In some cases, not only do parents not want their children swearing, but they themselves are also not comfortable with the use of swear words.  Basically, an adult can just not like swearing in general, instead of only disliking it when children swear.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this essay and think that it gives anyone, whether they’re a teenager or adult, so much to think and talk about as it gives plenty of valid points as well as making a few points that could be discussed or debated about.  As well as the topic of “Lies We Tell Kids” being really interesting, Graham’s reasoning and explanation behind it is also really memorable.  I wouldn’t be surprised if I now go around encouraging other people to read it (including my parents lol), and I also hope to see their heads nodding in agreement whilst reading it.

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