Finding the Truth behind the Headlines

About 100 years ago, the writer and humorist Mark Twain said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” You can find a study to support just about anything you believe. And if you can’t, statistics are easy to manipulate, massage, shoehorn, and just plain distort. In this article, MHN advisor Armin […]

Finding the Truth behind the Headlines

statistics

Dear Mr. Dad: Like you, I enjoy reading about new research findings in health and parenting. But I get really frustrated when what’s in the headlines isn’t always what’s in the actual research. How can I find the truth?

A: You’ve hit on one of my biggest pet peeves. As Mark Twain said about 100 years ago, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” You can find a study to support just about anything you believe. And if you can’t, statistics are easy to manipulate, massage, shoehorn, and just plain distort. Here are a few examples.
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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).

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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