A new study finds that casually fibbing to children results in lifelong issues.
- For simplicity and speed, parents may employ untruths as conversation-enders and to coerce desirable behavior using empty threats.
- Telling kids not to lie while modeling contrary behavior is, not surprisingly, a problem.
- Lying as an adult is just one of the issues lied-to children exhibit as grownups.
Why parents lie<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTE4MDQ0Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MTE4ODE2OH0.vSbzcjb-vdjCN4HNbig1T0vL8NA3lZ0SaWlSWD3SK88/img.jpg?width=980" id="61f6b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="38b3a6be1ad8891017bc436419dca948" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: SpeedKingz/Shutterstock<p>The 24/7 demands of parenting can be relentless, and it's easy to understand why an exhausted Mom or Dad may be attracted to shortcuts that seem to save time and obviate the need for complicated explanations that would require maturity to grasp. There are lots of these:</p> <ul> <li>"If you don't come right now, I'm going to leave you in this store."</li> <li>"No TV for the rest of the week if you don't do your homework now."</li> <li>"Mommy/Daddy will always be here."</li> <li>Even the classic, no-one-knows-why-it-works-so-well, "I'm counting: 1…2…" It's inherently a bluff. Most kids never find out what would happen at 3. Few parents know, either.</li> </ul> <p>Nonetheless, trust shifts once a child sees that actually you'll wait for them to come and not abandon them in the store, and the implicit message is ultimately, "I tell you never to lie, but I do it to you all the time."</p><p>"Authority assertion over children is a form of psychological intrusiveness," points out Setoh, "which may undermine children's sense of autonomy and convey rejection, ultimately undermining children's emotional well-being. Future research should examine the nature of the lies and goals of the parents so that researchers can suggest what kind of lies to avoid, and what kind of truth-telling parents should engage in."</p>
The study<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTE4MDQ0OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTE1NTUxM30.2d1zFfVbq0lRVDOP8qjMVszZAdJpU3UpMPuP_mEN3PU/img.jpg?width=980" id="f1302" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d09d7d1f8563bf86cdd0b67017e9caa9" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Peerawit/Shutterstock<p>The study published in the September issue of the <em><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S002209651830540X" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Journal of Experimental Child Psychology</a></em> was a collaboration between Setoh and researchers from University of Toronto in Canada, University of California, San Diego in the U.S., and Zhejiang Normal University in China.</p><p>The subjects were 379 young adults from Singapore who responded to questions posed in online surveys:</p> <ul> <li>The subjects were asked if their parents ever lied to them about four particular subjects: eating, leaving or staying, misbehavior, or money.</li> <li>They were next queried about how often they lied as adults to their parents about activities, if they exaggerated about events, or if they told lies intended to benefit others.</li> <li>Finally, the subjects filled out two questionnaires self-reporting their own psychosocial maladjustments and tendency to act selfishly or impulsively.</li> </ul> <p>The results may be taken with a few caveats. First, self-reporting can be unreliable. Second, while the subjects' answers show a correlation between parental lying and individuals' behaviors, it's just that, a correlation that may or may not indicate the true cause of their problems. Finally, Setoh suggests a more complete picture of the mechanisms at play could be gained from a study that involves both young adults <em>and</em> their parents.</p>
How to change<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTE4MDQ0OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNTkxODU1MH0.X4Wka-vX-Mr8xRWJPMA6wfsItASSKpOclJpv6RTCwLw/img.jpg?width=980" id="63305" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="42ef0278d50e73c0ef599674e55088cd" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: The Faces/Shutterstock<p>Setoh <a href="https://media.ntu.edu.sg/NewsReleases/Pages/newsdetail.aspx?news=05752f3b-61a0-4102-8919-47940b01c15b" target="_blank">tells</a> NTU, "Parents should be aware of these potential downstream implications and consider alternatives to lying, such as acknowledging children's feelings, giving information so children know what to expect, offering choices and problem-solving together to elicit good behavior from children."</p><p>To respond effectively, honestly, and relatively easily to difficult inquiries, answer the question being asked and stop. A child questioning you about such topics will never ask, "Tell me all about sex," for example, but more likely, "Did I live in your tummy?" or "How did I get in there?" By honestly answering the question being asked, you don't have to lie, and you're unlikely to be met with any difficult follow-up questions since the child needs time to absorb and process the new information. They may get back to you later with a follow-up, of course, at which point you do the same thing. Few people asking what time it is want to know how to build a clock.</p>
Want to predict someone's next move, or know if someone is telling you a lie? Learn to read body language like a poker pro.
A good poker face can win you a fortune or help you sell a difficult lie, but that term might be leading us all astray. For poker champ Liv Boeree, calling someone's bluff isn't about their face at all, it's often much more about their body as a whole—and one part in particular. "The feet are often the most reliable thing to look at on your opponent because they might be completely stoic in their face but their feet are bouncing around," she says. We're all hyper aware of our faces as a primary point of communication, but our bodies are speaking more loudly than we may realize. Typically, "the lower down on the body that you're looking at, the more reliable the information," she says. Keep in mind, reading body language is an art not a science, but thanks to Boeree's years of experience at the poker table she highlights some classic behaviors of bluffers, and reliable strategies for those who want to call them out. Find more from Liv Boeree at www.livboeree.com.
A recent study shows that children just 3 years of age learn how to deceive others for personal gain when exposed to competitive games.
Most children have the cognitive abilities needed for lying by the time they're 3 1/2 years old. However, a recent study published in the journal Developmental Science shows that kids even younger than that can quickly and spontaneously learn to lie when they're exposed to competitive games.
A new study suggests the brain gets more desensitized to lying with each lie you tell.