03 October 2009

Lying and Parenting

I came across this very interesting article from Live Science, reporting a research conducted by the University of Toronto. It seems that parents lie to their children surprisingly often, more often than we think they do.

So, what is the motive behind this parental behavior? Why do parents lie to their children? It seems that parents lie to their children in order to shape their emotions and behavior. Parents sometimes lie to their children to get the desired behavior, such as lying so that the child will not cry during a night out dinner, or even for protection, such as lying so that the child will not learn about the horrendous murder in the news.

But is this really beneficial? Granted, I am not a developmental psychologist, so this is just my opinion out here. But I would think that lying actually disrupts the learning mechanisms of the kid. If the parent lies by saying that a magical creature will be happy if the child ate his broccoli, then the child will form the wrong assumption of a non-existent cause and effect. I think it would be way better to expose children to truths in the very beginning.

I do understand that there are cases in which experience trumps learning. There may be times in which it is way practical to tell the child to just obey, since the parents know better. But children are not stupid. Children have fascinating brains too, and they have the amazing capability to learn quick. Parents may just be under-estimating the capacity of the child's brain for learning, to the point that they will lie more often than needed. Children can recognize patterns and rules, and they are not stupid as parents might think.

(Native American Hall 2, from my Lafayette Square Series)


  1. I'm so much agree with you in never underestimate the children, but then again the true can be crewel sometimes.

    There is also a difference between not telling everything and not telling a lie and of course it depends of the child's age.

  2. I also think that parents raise their kids keeping in mind the norms and practises they had during their childhood, but the generation gap is widening so much that things change rapidly. For example, telling a child that eating broccoli will keep the demon away will last only for the night. When the kid goes to school the next day, they will know better. Then what? Distrust of parents? I was talking to a 8 yr old recently and I was shocked to hear the things they know and talk about! Man, I was a retard in comparison.. hehe..

  3. Renny,

    Yes, the truth can be cruel, but I don't think parents have to lie all the way in order to divert the question. Children will learn how cruel the truth is sooner or later, so it's easier to just give them a mild version of the truth, rather than constructing a totally different scenario.


    Yes, there's the generation gap factor as well. And perhaps, with this is the patriarch/matriarch mentality that is slowly ebbing away. It used to be that what the father says is always true. Now, we're in modern times now, and people, even young children, know how to think rationally.