Lying Kids: Your Just Like Your Parents!

Kids learn about sex, drugs, and rock and roll at school, but according to the New York Magazine article, “Learning to Lie,” they learn to lie from their parents.

The article points out that we teach our children to lie in the name of good manners. “Tell your Aunt that you love the hand-knit sweater she sent you for your birthday. Tell her that pea green, pink, and vomit yellow are your favorite colors and you can’t wait to wear it to school.”

They see us lie to a telemarketer on the phone, “I’m sorry Mr. Leonard died yesterday in a horrific logging accident, I’m just robbing his house.”

And they see us lie to smooth over awkward social situations, “Yes, your son was amazing in the 80’s punk adaptation of King Lear. He really nailed the Earl of Kent.”

But don’t worry, you want your kids to lie. It’s a sign of intelligence!

It starts very young. Indeed, bright kids—those who do better on other academic indicators—are able to start lying at 2 or 3. “Lying is related to intelligence,” explains Dr. Victoria Talwar, an assistant professor at Montreal’s McGill University and a leading expert on children’s lying behavior.

Although we think of truthfulness as a young child’s paramount virtue, it turns out that lying is the more advanced skill. A child who is going to lie must recognize the truth, intellectually conceive of an alternate reality, and be able to convincingly sell that new reality to someone else. Therefore, lying demands both advanced cognitive development and social skills that honesty simply doesn’t require. “It’s a developmental milestone,” Talwar has concluded.

As odd as it sounds, the article makes some good points about how to deal with lying. First, accept the fact that most kids lie for various reasons. According to the article, 98%. But then think about how to react to this. Freaking out and threatening to kill them or send them to the Maury Povich Show is not the best response. In fact, escalating punishment may just improve the kid’s lying skills.

Increasing the threat of punishment for lying only makes children hyperaware of the potential personal cost. It distracts children from learning how their lies affect others. In studies, scholars find that kids who live in threat of consistent punishment don’t lie less. Instead, they become better liars, at an earlier age—learning to get caught less often.

The article goes on to talk about teenagers and the trends that carry over into young adulthood. Check it out, it’s worth the read.

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7 Responses to “Lying Kids: Your Just Like Your Parents!”

  1. It’s good to know that my son is displaying even more signs of being a genius… Even if those signs include lying to me. 🙂 I think that might come into play more if you have siblings, too. It’s a lot harder to say, “I didn’t do it!” when you’re an older child than when you’re 3 and your 18 month old brother is right next to you. 😉

  2. Huh! I’m going to go read that article now.

  3. Robert Krzisnik Says:

    Hey, it was such a mind-opener to read this. It is not that from now on I will applaud when my teenage kids lie to me, but it certainly feels good to step out on the balcony and experience at least some relativity to it. Yes, things are not always what they seem to be and lying is not always a terrible sign of kids going downhill straight into the darkness of totally screwed-up life. Hmmm, thanks again.

  4. I’ve got to read that article. Because my daughter is brilliant… she must be the Albert Einstein of 6 year olds….

  5. im 15 years old and i know that it is the truth that i get better at lying. but i think it is also true that my parents get better at finding out that i have lied to them. its not just the child that is learning, it is also the parent. i also think that the parent needs to learn to deal with it not only by punishment but by letting the child know that this is what had happened in response to your lying. again im 15 and yes i consider myself a child because i believe i have not matured enough to be called an adult

  6. At last, childhood education research insist that the best way to teach our kids honesty, is to be honest ourselves. If we know exactly ‪why do kids lie‬ and were the best honest model, we ‪will never have lying kids.

  7. You post interesting content here. Your blog deserves much more traffic.
    It can go viral if you give it initial boost, i know very useful service that can help you, simply type in google:
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