We tell kids to "always tell the truth".
But what about situations where it's NOT good to tell the truth?
In an age where any healthcare provider can circumvent HIPAA and throw you on the prohibited persons list for any reason, where the NSA is tracking you everywhere you go on the web and everyone you talk to, and where talking about the wrong thing at work can get you fired, where organic gardens are being made illegal, is there a place for teaching kids that sometimes it's OK, even necessary, to lie?
Governments encouraging kids to rat out their parents has been going on since time immemorial. Russia, China, North Korea, and other totalitarian regimes have always made it a priority to go after children. Lenin famously said "Give me children for 4 years and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted." And of course Orwell's "1984" contained examples of children denouncing their parents.
In particular, I would like to address the practice of doctors and other health professionals asking parents and children (often with the children separated from mom) whether their home contains firearms. It is inevitable that an affirmative answer here by either child or parent will be recorded indefinitely for posterity in a government-accessible database. It's likely as well that even a non-answer like "None of your business" is also recorded as an affirmative. And if at any time any healthcare professional thinks that you are "dangerous", they can remove your ability to buy firearms forever. (And "dangerous" will likely mean "has guns in the home")
Most children are taught to obey authority figures without question - police officers, doctors, teachers, etc.
But there are times when "telling the truth" is not a good thing. What is the best route forward for parents when they know their kids may be isolated and faced with nosy, clipboard-bearing government professionals with unclear intentions towards you and the ability to remove your children from you on a whim? What about other nosy parents? What about your kids' friends with tweaker uncles who prick up their ears when they hear your little Suzy talking about her family's $10,000 gun collection?
In my case, I have always answered "no" when asked by a doctor if there are firearms in the home. They're either locked up or being carried. Why should I involve a doctor, that knows nothing about guns, in my firearm decisions? I don't ask my plumber how I should allocate my stock portfolio.
But what about kids?
What do we tell them to say?
My route has been the following:
"Kidlets, Mommy and Daddy love you very much, and accept you just the way you are. But there are people out there that are not as accepting and tolerant as Mommy and Daddy, and if they discover something about you that they do not like about you or our family, they will become angry and mean. They might not show it to you, but they will still be angry."
"Because we own guns, we have to be careful of intolerant, mean people that will get angry at us if they find out we own guns. Not everyone is intolerant or mean, but we have to be careful. It is important that if a teacher, a doctor, or a friend, or another parent asks you if we own guns, you tell them I DON'T KNOW. Yes, this is lying, and while we tell the truth to each other, we don't have to tell the truth to those outside our family, especially when they are not close close friends."
"Let's practice. Pretend I am a doctor in a big white coat. 'Little boy, do your parents own guns?' 'I dunno.'"
"Let's pretend I am the parent of a friend. 'Little girl, are there guns in your house?' 'I don't know.'"
"Pretend I'm a police officer. 'Little girl, are their guns in your house?' 'I dunno.' 'Now, I talked with your brother, and he said yes. Are there any guns in the house? 'I dunno.'"
"Good work, the three of you. Let's go get some ice cream."