Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children Revised

Why Children Lie

  • We may treasure honesty, but the research is clear. Most classic strategies to promote truthfulness just encourage kids to be better liars. By age four, 80% of children have started to lie. Most lies to parents are to cover-up transgressions. Parents often fail to censure failed cover-ups showing the child that an attempted lie didn’t have any cost. Lying demands advanced cognitive development and social skills that honesty doesn’t. If a child increases lying behavior, it is often a symptom of a bigger problem.
  • Telling kids the George Washington story about how he told the truth about chopping down a cherry tree reduced lying 75% in boys and 50% in girls. Telling them the story about the boy who cried wolf increased lying. In the cherry tree story, George avoids punishment and receives praise. In the Wolf story, kids get the message that you can be punished for lying, which they already know very well. Parents need to teach kids the worth of honesty just as much as they need to say lying is wrong.
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