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Parents Lie Their Children more often Than We Think


Honesty may seem to be the best policy and a value that parents want to teach their children but a new study has found that parents lie to their children more often than we think.

"We are surprised by how often parenting by lying takes place," said study researcher Kang Lee of the University of Toronto, Canada. "Our findings showed that even the parents who most strongly promoted the importance of honesty with their children engaged in parenting by lying."

Lee acknowledged that the study is simply groundwork in the attempts to bringing up an issue that is rarely studied. They are not sure the implications of parental lying, but suggest lies, or “tall tales” give kids mixed messages at a very crucial time of their life.

Researchers decided to run two studies in which parents and students commented on nine hypothetical circumstances where a parent lied to a child to either shape behavior or make them happy. For instance, one behavior-molding scenario reads: "A parent is embarrassed by a child's crying and says, 'The police will come to make sure that you behave if you don't stop crying now.'"

In yet another scenario in the attempt to control the emotion of the child the parent told the child: "A favorite uncle has just died and the child is told that he has become a star to watch over the child." Another emotion-shifter; "A child is told, 'you did a good job at cleaning up your room' after making things messier."

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The researchers tested the scenarios on approximately 130 parents, mostly moms, asking each participant to indicate whether they had told similar lies. Parents also rated on a scale from 1 (very bad) to 7 (very good) what the parent in each vignette had said. More than 70 percent said they teach their children that lying is unacceptable. Even so, nearly 80 percent of parents indicated they had told at least one similar lie.

Heyman suggested some of the reasons range from benefiting the parents themselves (say, lying to keep a child from crying when you head out for dinner) to protecting the child from scary issues, such as lying to a child about a murder in the news.

Children sometimes behave in ways that are disruptive or are likely to harm their long-term interests," said Heyman. "It is common for parents to try out a range of strategies, including lying, to gain compliance. When parents are juggling the demands of getting through the day, concerns about possible long-term negative consequences to children's beliefs about honesty are not necessarily at the forefront."

She continues to say, “Parents often lie on the spur of the moment, and they don't think about what they're saying and how it will affect their child," She added, "I think parents should figure it out in advance what their general beliefs are so when it comes to the situation you're working with your beliefs rather than what pops into your head at the moment."

Bottom line, parents lie to their children more often than we think and more studies will need to take place in order to discover what the long range impact has to the children that are being lied to.

Materials from Fox News are used in this report.

Written by Tyler Woods Ph.D.
Tucson, Arizona
Exclusive to eMaxHealth