Research has shown that children who have strict parents are more likely to lie than those who don’t. According to children’s expert Victoria Talwar, very strict parenting can have an effect on how children respond and the levels in which they deceive people, particularly their parents. Talwar specializes in cognitive behavioural patterns in children at McGill University, and she says that when children are dealing with strict rules they are also dealing with strict punishments. Because of their fear of the harsh consequences, these children try to find deceptive ways to get out of being punished.
The Peeping Game
A test called the “Peeping Game” was designed to test this theory. There were objects placed behind the children which made noises – the last of which made a noise that was impossible to decipher and relate to the object. This meant that the child could know what the object was only by peeking a look. Then the adults left the room leaving the child and the object inside. The child was later quizzed about the object and also whether they had snuck a look at it. Test results showed that kids with stricter parents were far more deceptive and quite skilled as liars when they were asked to tell the truth.
Lying Does Not Necessarily Mean Harmful Intent
This does not necessarily indicate that the child is a delinquent or heading for a life of petty crime and dishonesty. In fact, it can mean quite the opposite. The child is developing quite advanced psychological skills that could actually be setting them up for a successful future. If a knack for lying developed naturally it could be more problematic. In the above incident, the child is consciously allowing the deception due to an outside force. If the child can consciously keep their lies from their facts straight, they can begin to have very clear perceptions of fact and fiction, and in fact use this to their advantage. It is important however not to encourage manipulation in children whatsoever.
Children and Cognitive Ability
A child’s cognitive abilities can be observed through this experience. A child’s capability for deceptiveness is commonly linked to the abilities of their mind and the level in which cognition is developing. Children can show signs of thinking ‘out of the box’ due to creative deceptiveness and it also shows signs of a very good memory.
At McGill University, Talwar and her team based children’s behaviour on studies involving a developmental model of lying. They said that children from the age of approximately two years began to tell ‘primary’ lies, which may detract from erroneous behaviours but which do not relate directly to the parent or have much connection with reacting to the parent’s behaviour. Children at the age of four years began with ‘secondary’ lies. These are more probable truths than the primary lies and are more personalised, and connected with the accused. ‘Tertiary’ lies are evident at the age of seven. These lies are said to integrate with the truth so that they are even more convincing.
When these models develop at an early age it can show signs of high intelligence in your child. So lying can be an advantage, and quite intellectual! The key is to be mindful of your child’s development.
Featured photo credit: Lubomir Simek via flickr.com