On Thursday January 24 2012, Psychologists Kang Lee and Angela Evans talked on Canada AM about a research they had done on children and lying. They said that their research which was done over a period of ten days, shows children as young as two can lie, and explain why lying is not necessarily a bad thing.
“Generally two-year-olds are honest, only about 25% of them are lying,” Evans said.
Evans said that children, two-years-old and older, were placed into a room with a hidden camera, and were told that they were supposed to play a guessing game, where a toy was placed on a desk behind the child and the child was supposed to guess what the toy was by the noise that the toy was making.
In the game at some point the expert excuses himself from the room, and tells the children not to peek at the toy. The hidden camera shows that 25% of children as young as two-year-olds peeked and lied about it, while the number of four-years-olds who lied increased to about 80%; the study showed that children’s lying behavior decreases past four-year-olds to about 30 to 40%.
“We should not be alarmed by it, because the study shows that although the child told a lie, he or she is not a good lie teller, which means that they did not lie with intent, but at the same time at that point we as parents should start teaching children the difference between truth and a lie,” Lee said.
Lee said that part of the reason why children lied in his study, is because they want to be successful.
Why else do children lie?
Other studies show that there is not one single cause of what makes children lie. They lie out fear; when children are scared of the consequences of their actions, they often lie to cover up. They lie to protect their peers, or their siblings, to avoid doing a task that was assigned to them and they don’t want to do it.
Here are a few tips of what parents can do to guide their children on the right path.
Many lies come from self-protection, and you can help by not creating a situation where your child feels he or she only has two choices; to lie or suffer the consequences. Keep the conversation focused on what happened or what the problem was, rather than casting blame; communicate with your child openly and honestly; together find a solution to why the child lied in the first place; talk calmly about what happened, and give the child positive reinforcement for his bravery and his sense of ethics, and then explain that with every misdeed there are appropriate consequences.
Children need to have positive feedback for telling the truth and they need consistent consequences. The positive feedback will make the consequence easier to take, and help build their ethical sense. Don't reprimand your child for telling the truth. Parents should get the facts before accusing their child of lying. A false accusation, or not believing a child when he is telling the truth, can have negative consequences.