Lies: I Really Want to Believe You, But….

Dear Mr. Dad, I have a real problem with my ten-year-old daughter: Just about everything she says is a lie. If she tells me she’s texting a girl friend from school, it’s probably a boy. If I ask whether she’s cleaned her room, she’ll look me straight in the eye and tell me Yes, even though I know (and she knows I know) that she didn’t lift a finger. If I were to ask her if grass is green, she’d probably tell me it isn’t. Why is she doing this and how can we get her to stop?

A: Telling lies is a part of human nature, and it starts very early in life. A study on lying done at Toronto University in Canada found that about 20% of two-year-olds lie, but by age four, 90% were doing it. And the lying doesn’t stop when we grow up. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that 60% of adults can’t make it through a simple 10-minute conversation without telling at least one lie (in fact, people in the study told an average of three lies in that 10-minute period).

Lying is a learned behavior. When we’re very young, we look at the adults in our lives as all-powerful and all-knowing. Trying out a lie—and getting away with it—shows us that people can’t read our minds. As we get older, we discover that lying can sometimes get us out of trouble and may even help us avoid getting punished. The more successful the lies, the more often they’ll be told.

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Liar, Liar, Nose on Fire: Why We Lie to Our Kids

Dear Mr. Dad: Like most parents, I encourage my kids to tell me the truth and I always give them consequences for lying. The other day, just after I’d taken away my 9-year-old’s video game privileges for lying to me about having done his homework, I realized that I lie to my kids all the time. Is there a difference between a parent’s lies and a child’s?
A: What a great question. As adults, we know how important it is to tell truth and we teach our children that it’s wrong to lie. But then we turn around and do it—right to their face—every day (and this goes far beyond the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus). In fact, several recent studies have found that about 90% of parents have a repertoire of completely BS stories that we tell our kids. According to researcher Gail Heyman, those lies tend to fall into four categories: diet and nutrition, getting the kids to either leave or stay somewhere, changing behavior, and money. Here are some of the best ones (if you haven’t used them already, you’re free to add them to your arsenal).

Teaching Values + Adventures in Homeschooling

www.amazon.co.ukGuest 1: Mary O’Dohohue, author of When You Say ‘Thank You,’ Mean It.
Topic: 12 lessons for instilling lifelong values in your children.
Issues: A 12-month program (that’s easy to implement and actually works) for teaching values: gratitude, self-respect, respect for others, integrity, compassion, forgiveness, a sense of joy, commitment, lifelong learning, inner strength, spirituality, and a sense of purpose.


www.amazon.co.ukGuest 2: Quinn Cummings, author of The Year of Learning Dangerously.
Topic: Adventures in homeschooling.
Issues: Making the decision to enter the unfamiliar water of homeschooling; the highlights and pitfalls of taking your children’s education into your own hands; what do to—and what not to do along the way.

The Truth about Lying

Dear Mr. Dad: Our 9-year-old son is a habitual liar. He fibs even about the smallest, most insignificant things. But whenever we challenge him, he stands his ground and tries to convince us he’s telling the truth. What can we do?

A: Before we get to the what-you-can-do part, we need to find out what’s going on and why. Children lie for a number of different reasons, primarily to impress others, boost their self-esteem, feel less insecure, or avoid punishment. (Hmmm. The same reasons many adults lie, too.)

For example, your son might be bragging to his friends about all the latest games he has in his room—even though you can’t afford any of them. He may figure that if he told the truth, nobody would be interested in him. If he’s feeling especially insecure, he might spin some incredible yarns about his talents or abilities to help him feel better about himself.
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My Cheatin’ Kid

Dear Mr. Dad: My six-year-old son has suddenly begun cheating at games, at school, in sports—pretty much every chance he gets. This has come out of the blue. I can’t help feeling it’s a moral issue. How can I nip it in the bud?

A: If you hadn’t told me your son’s age, I’d have guessed it within a year or so. The good news is that he’s right on schedule for the little social experiment he’s conducting.

A very powerful thing happens in child development right around age six. Developmental psychologists call it Theory of Mind—the point when kids begin to truly grasp that other people experience the world from their own unique perspective, and that they don’t always know what’s going on in other people’s heads. Before that, kids have a kind of “universal mind” idea, believing that everyone sees and experiences things in the same way and shares the same knowledge.
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