White Lies




The discussion about lies and white lies is an interesting one to have,
particularly with children as the enter into middle to late primary school and
especially into the teen years. Lying can be simultaneously be viewed as
both an antisocial and a socially appropriate behaviour.

Telling the truth is generally viewed as a positive behaviour, that enhances
trust in one another. However as relationships begin to be more
complicated, the notion of a white lie or learning to omit certain truths
emerges as an additional positive social behaviour.

This is a topic that frequently arises in my work with children and teens on
the Spectrum, because telling white lies, which are lies that are told with the
intention to preserve the feelings of others, ventures into the ‘grey’ zone of
what can be considered ‘good’ social behaviour, whilst also being a lie,
which is considered a ‘bad’ social behaviour.

Telling a white lie and learning to understand why they are considered
socially acceptable, means understanding that social relationship rules are
not absolute or black and white. That telling white lies means we have developed flexible thinking about another person and have and tried to make
guesses about how the truth versus the lie will be viewed.

There are many instances that white lies are told, however if you have a child
on the Spectrum and they are confused by the apparent contradiction that
happens around lying, it might be important to learn about the values that
many neurotypicals have, which is valuing the relationship connection over
absolute truth and honesty. Learning about these differences can be helpful
in navigating the complexities of lies and white lies and their specific

Certainly the white lies that have been told in our family include the Easter
Bunny, Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy! And whilst I think my children are
gradually learning to understand that these have been told to preserve the
magic of childhood, I have seen the other side in my work children, the
distress that finding out that they have been ‘lied’ to for years and the
process of trying to understand this contradiction.
So while this may not mean you don’t every utilise a white lie, in your
household it is worthwhile considering whether it is something that your child
understands yet.

Kate x

Published by Kate French

Clinical Psychologist; expertise in autism and child and family psychology.

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