Most parents 'lie to their children'

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Most parents 'lie to their children'

Postby AceTutors123 » Fri Jan 25, 2013 9:24 am

Most parents 'lie to their children'

Most parents tell lies to their children as a tactic to change their behaviour, suggests a study of families in the United States and China.

The most frequent example was parents threatening to leave children alone in public unless they behaved.

Persuasion ranged from invoking the support of the tooth fairy to telling children they would go blind unless they ate particular vegetables.

Another strategic example was: "That was beautiful piano playing."

The study, published in the International Journal of Psychology, examined the use of "instrumental lying" - and found that such tactically-deployed falsehoods were used by an overwhelming majority of parents in both the United States and China - based on interviews with about 200 families.

'I'll buy it next time'

The most commonly used lie - popular with both US and Chinese families - was parents pretending to a child that they were going to walk away and leave the child to his or her tantrum.

"The pervasiveness of this lie may relate to the universality of the challenge parents face in trying to leave a place against their child's wishes," say the researchers.

Another lie that was common in both countries was the "false promise to buy a requested toy at some indefinite time in the future".

There were "untrue statements related to misbehaviour", which included: ''If you don't behave, I will call the police," and: "If you don't quiet down and start behaving, the lady over there will be angry with you.''

If these seem rather unheroic examples of parenting by proxy threat, there are some more startling lies recorded.

Under the category of "Untrue statements related to leaving or staying" a parent was recorded as saying: "If you don't follow me, a kidnapper will come to kidnap you while I'm gone."

There were also lies motivated by protecting a child's feelings - labelled as "Untrue statements related to positive feelings."

This included the optimistic: "Your pet went to live on your uncle's farm where he will have more space to run around."

A rather self-serving untruth was used for a quick getaway from a toy shop: ''I did not bring money with me today. We can come back another day."

There was also a selection of lies relating to "fantasy characters", also used to enforce good behaviour, such as in the run-up to Christmas.

'Broccoli makes you taller'

The study found no clear difference between the lies used by mothers and fathers, according to researchers, who were from psychology departments at the University of California San Diego in the US, Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua in China and the University of Toronto, Canada.

Although levels of such "instrumental lying" were high in both countries, they were highest in China.

The study found there was an acceptance of such lies among parents when they were used as a way of reinforcing desirable social behaviour.

For example, the lie told to children that they would grow taller for every bite of broccoli was seen as encouraging healthy eating habits.

The study raises the longer-term issue of the impact on families of such opportunistic approaches to the truth. It suggests it could influence family relationships as children get older.

The researchers, headed by Gail D. Heymana, Anna S. Hsua, Genyue Fub and Kang Leeac, concluded that this raises "important moral questions for parents about when, if ever, parental lying is justified".


BBC: Most parents 'lie to their children'
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What is the most ridiculous lie that you have told your children?

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Re: Most parents 'lie to their children'

Postby ammonite » Fri Jan 25, 2013 9:53 am

When is parental lying ever justified?

When s*** hits the fan and your mind is a blank, but you look them in the eye and say, "Everything is going to be okay."

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Re: Most parents 'lie to their children'

Postby slmkhoo » Fri Jan 25, 2013 10:14 am

AceTutors123 wrote:The study raises the longer-term issue of the impact on families of such opportunistic approaches to the truth. It suggests it could influence family relationships as children get older.

The researchers, headed by Gail D. Heymana, Anna S. Hsua, Genyue Fub and Kang Leeac, concluded that this raises "important moral questions for parents about when, if ever, parental lying is justified".

My husband and I believe that parental lying is not justified in most cases. I can't really think of many justifiable ones offhand, but I guess if in a life-or-death situation and needing to keep their spirits up, we might say that 'someone will come and get us'! I do believe that habitual lying over small things can lead to "opportunistic approaches to the truth", and will also erode their trust in us. We teach our kids to speak accurately, without hyperbole (unless it's clear to the listener) or 'white' lies, so we try to model that for them.

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Re: Most parents 'lie to their children'

Postby ammonite » Fri Jan 25, 2013 10:24 am

Agree with that :)
Slight aside, my kids smell a rat easily in any case. I was pretty surprised to hear how a mum conspired with a friend to get her son out of diapers by saying the "diaper fairy" will take him away at night. And it actually worked! (boy was over 7 yrs old) I would be worried if my kid is so gullible. *faint*

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Re: Most parents 'lie to their children'

Postby AceTutors123 » Fri Jan 25, 2013 10:26 am

slmkhoo wrote:
AceTutors123 wrote:The study raises the longer-term issue of the impact on families of such opportunistic approaches to the truth. It suggests it could influence family relationships as children get older.

The researchers, headed by Gail D. Heymana, Anna S. Hsua, Genyue Fub and Kang Leeac, concluded that this raises "important moral questions for parents about when, if ever, parental lying is justified".

My husband and I believe that parental lying is not justified in most cases. I can't really think of many justifiable ones offhand, but I guess if in a life-or-death situation and needing to keep their spirits up, we might say that 'someone will come and get us'! I do believe that habitual lying over small things can lead to "opportunistic approaches to the truth", and will also erode their trust in us. We teach our kids to speak accurately, without hyperbole (unless it's clear to the listener) or 'white' lies, so we try to model that for them.


That's great slmkhoo, considering that over 98% of parents from China, and 84% of parents from the US lie to their children! How do you deal with situations wherein your child refuses to leave a particular public place, or when they insist on getting a toy?

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Re: Most parents 'lie to their children'

Postby slmkhoo » Fri Jan 25, 2013 10:37 am

AceTutors123 wrote:
slmkhoo wrote:
AceTutors123 wrote:The study raises the longer-term issue of the impact on families of such opportunistic approaches to the truth. It suggests it could influence family relationships as children get older.

The researchers, headed by Gail D. Heymana, Anna S. Hsua, Genyue Fub and Kang Leeac, concluded that this raises "important moral questions for parents about when, if ever, parental lying is justified".

My husband and I believe that parental lying is not justified in most cases. I can't really think of many justifiable ones offhand, but I guess if in a life-or-death situation and needing to keep their spirits up, we might say that 'someone will come and get us'! I do believe that habitual lying over small things can lead to "opportunistic approaches to the truth", and will also erode their trust in us. We teach our kids to speak accurately, without hyperbole (unless it's clear to the listener) or 'white' lies, so we try to model that for them.


That's great slmkhoo, considering that over 98% of parents from China, and 84% of parents from the US lie to their children! How do you deal with situations wherein your child refuses to leave a particular public place, or when they insist on getting a toy?

We started by dealing firmly with their tantrums at home. For us, 'yes' means 'yes', 'no' means 'no', and we used time-out, deprivation of privileges and the occasional slap on the hand consistently for various offences. So they mostly believed us when we said 'no' outside. If they threw a tantrum, I would tell them I didn't like their behaviour and would be somewhere apart (within sight but not right beside them), and would wait there until they stopped crying. Since they knew that tantrums didn't work at home, they gave up quite quickly once they realised that I wasn't going to give in just because we were somewhere else. When they wanted stuff which we didn't want to buy, we just said 'no' and gave our reason - we have too many already, it's junk etc. We never said we had no money (unless it was true) or that we'd buy it another day (unless we intended to). In any case, we always told our kids when we set out if we were not intending to buy stuff for them, and they were used to it. We found that once you've dealt firmly with a couple of tantrums, kids are smart enough not to waste energy on a lost cause. It's only if you give in sometimes that kids think it's worth a try. They will try it on once in a way to see if the rules have changed, but once they've established that tantrums still don't work, they will stop.

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Re: Most parents 'lie to their children'

Postby AceTutors123 » Fri Jan 25, 2013 10:43 am

slmkhoo wrote:We started by dealing firmly with their tantrums at home. For us, 'yes' means 'yes', 'no' means 'no', and we used time-out, deprivation of privileges and the occasional slap on the hand consistently for various offences. So they mostly believed us when we said 'no' outside. If they threw a tantrum, I would tell them I didn't like their behaviour and would be somewhere apart (within sight but not right beside them), and would wait there until they stopped crying. Since they knew that tantrums didn't work at home, they gave up quite quickly once they realised that I wasn't going to give in just because we were somewhere else. When they wanted stuff which we didn't want to buy, we just said 'no' and gave our reason - we have too many already, it's junk etc. We never said we had no money (unless it was true) or that we'd buy it another day (unless we intended to). In any case, we always told our kids when we set out if we were not intending to buy stuff for them, and they were used to it. We found that once you've dealt firmly with a couple of tantrums, kids are smart enough not to waste energy on a lost cause. It's only if you give in sometimes that kids think it's worth a try.


Nice. Never felt comfortable lying, and didn't know how to deal with really young children. Thanks for sharing slmkhoo.

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Re: Most parents 'lie to their children'

Postby Jennifer » Fri Jan 25, 2013 11:02 am

AceTutors123 wrote:What is the most ridiculous lie that you have told your children?


"You were plucked from a star" when my elder boy (then a toddler) asked me where he came from.

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Re: Most parents 'lie to their children'

Postby Funz » Fri Jan 25, 2013 11:02 am

AceTutors123 wrote:
slmkhoo wrote:We started by dealing firmly with their tantrums at home. For us, 'yes' means 'yes', 'no' means 'no', and we used time-out, deprivation of privileges and the occasional slap on the hand consistently for various offences. So they mostly believed us when we said 'no' outside. If they threw a tantrum, I would tell them I didn't like their behaviour and would be somewhere apart (within sight but not right beside them), and would wait there until they stopped crying. Since they knew that tantrums didn't work at home, they gave up quite quickly once they realised that I wasn't going to give in just because we were somewhere else. When they wanted stuff which we didn't want to buy, we just said 'no' and gave our reason - we have too many already, it's junk etc. We never said we had no money (unless it was true) or that we'd buy it another day (unless we intended to). In any case, we always told our kids when we set out if we were not intending to buy stuff for them, and they were used to it. We found that once you've dealt firmly with a couple of tantrums, kids are smart enough not to waste energy on a lost cause. It's only if you give in sometimes that kids think it's worth a try.


Nice. Never felt comfortable lying, and didn't know how to deal with really young children. Thanks for sharing slmkhoo.


DD trained us really well for this. She was a difficult baby and will not take no as an answer and super persistant when she wants something. She does not repond well to anything impromtu. So before we go anywhere or for anything, we will spend time telling her what to expect and what we expect and if she should act out in public what will the consequences be. We had to be very firm with her as the moment we give in once, she will expect more. With this method, most outings were incident free. When DS came along, we did the same thing with him, since that to us was the norm. He was an easy kid so, not a single incident with him.

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Re: Most parents 'lie to their children'

Postby ammonite » Fri Jan 25, 2013 11:44 am

Jennifer wrote:
AceTutors123 wrote:What is the most ridiculous lie that you have told your children?


"You were plucked from a star" when my elder boy (then a toddler) asked me where he came from.


:lol: that sounds pretty special actually. After all, according to Carl Sagan, we are all stardust rite?

Reminds of ds's first dentist. When doing his filling, she told him very seriously - now I'm going to put a star in for Christmas. That plus a balloon sword, oh my, he loved going to the dentist afterwards! :lol:

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