It’s true — kids lie. Here are some truths on lying, as well as some helpful tips to prevent lying in the first place.
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.
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 About Lying #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 About Lying #2: Kids learn to lie from us.
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 About Lying #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.
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