3 Truths About Lying

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It’s true–kids lie. A recent study by the Social Cognitive Development Lab at Brock University shows  that lying starts as early as the age of 2 in some kids, and that the amount of lying peaks around the ages of 4 and 10. The study suggested that lying can be a good sign, and that it means a child is thinking deeper and more creatively.

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I know we all want smart kids, but a child who understands the difference between right and wrong  seems to be more ahead in the game of life to me. This week, we’ll shed some truth on lying and give you some tips to help keep your kids’ pants from catching fire.

Truth 1- Kids respond better to praise

You never want to shame or threaten a child into doing anything. That should never be the goal. Kids respond better when you praise them for telling the truth instead of punishing them for lying. In the study by Brock University, researchers found that when parents tell their kids stories about people who told the truth and were praised for it (think George Washington and the cherry tree), lying dropped 30 percent.  Compare that to a University of Toronto study that found kids who received corporal  punishment were better at lying and more likely to do it again.

Truth 2- Kids learn to lie from us

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In an article by New York Magazine, Dr. Victoria Talwar, an assistant professor at Montreal’s McGill University and a leading expert on children’s lying behavior, says that adults unwittingly teach kids how to lie. She writes, “Encouraged to tell so many white lies and hearing so many others, children gradually get comfortable with being disingenuous. Insincerity becomes, literally, a daily occurrence. They learn that honesty only creates conflict, and dishonesty is an easy way to avoid conflict. And while they don’t confuse white-lie situations with lying to cover their misdeeds, they bring this emotional groundwork from one circumstance to the other. It becomes easier, psychologically, to lie to a parent.”

What can you do? Simply watch what you say and encourage parents to do the same.

Truth 3- Lying can be stopped

Don’t think that just because they’re young, kids will grow out of lying. If you don’t try to correct their behavior, they can continue to lie. The idea is to catch it early. Be firm, fair, and forgiving. Many experts agree that kids should feel free to tell the truth. Create an environment in your ministry that welcomes truthfulness. Let your kids know that they can tell you the truth no matter what. And don’t label kids as liars, or they might be more likely to take on that role. By helping them understand why lies are  wrong, we can help them see the truth.

I want to know what you think. How tough should you be on lying? Is there such a thing as a little white lie? What are some lies we tell our kids? Share with us some tips and tricks you have on handling lying in your ministry. You can post your comments below!

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About Author

David Jennings

David has served kids around the world for the majority of his life. From Texas to Romania, he has followed where God has led him. Most recently, he served for six years as a children's director in the great state of Alabama before moving to Colorado to work for Group as an associate editor.

2 Comments

  1. Children's Ministry Magazine

    When I found out there really wasn't a Santa (1st grade) I came home and called a family meeting and told my parents they were punished for a week for lying. I never told by kids there was a Santa.

  2. Children's Ministry Magazine

    Thanks for your message Robin. When we asked our Facebook group to share about the most common lies we tell our kids, the jolly ol' man in red was one of the first things mentioned.

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