Lying is a fluid and complex concept, and one that is subject to various gradients and degrees. While many of us may be tempted to spin the truth when trying to hiding harmless mistakes or effectively sell a used car, for example, this is entirely different to the type of sustained and pathological lies that quickly become ingrained in individuals.
How Strict Parenting Can Breed Innate Liars
A recently survey conducted by Victoria Talwar has sought to shed further light on the concept of lying, while its findings suggest that strict parenting tends to result in particularly deceptive and duplicitous offspring. The study was conducted at two West African schools, one with relaxed rules and the other with notoriously harsh disciplinary regimes. As part of the process, the children were asked to guess what object was making a particular noise without looking at it.
The key to the study is that the last object makes an erroneous sound that has no correlation with what it is supposed to represent. So a baseball would make a definitive squawking noise, for example, meaning that it could only possibly be identified by respondents who had taken a sneaky peak at the final object. At the end of the study, the children were asked to identify each object according to the sound and then quizzed as to whether they had peeked.
The results proved that while students at the more relaxed school showcased an even distribution of liars and truth-tellers (according to the predetermined age group), the children in stricter establishments revealed themselves to be far more prolific and efficient liars.
How Can Parents learn from this to fine-tune their Parenting?
As a general rule, it appears as though parents who are draconian in their approach and rigidly punish their children for any wrongdoing inadvertently force their offspring to become more proficient liars. This enables them to use lying as a way of escaping punishment, while this behaviour gradually becomes ingrained within a stringent and unforgiving environment.
Now, the question that remains is how individuals should fine-tune parenting skills so that their children can avoid becoming pathological liars as they grow older?
Here are some initial ideas to help you on your way:
1. Recognise the nature of lying and its varying degrees
We have already touched on the fact that there are variable degrees of lying, while it is also important to note that the ability to lie can emerge naturally and remains a genuine sign of formative cognitive development. It is crucial that you recognise this, as parents can sometimes react to harmless, primary lies (which are often unconvincing and designed to hide errant behaviour) with a stricter regime.
This only teaches children to be even more duplicitous, however, so try to understand the innate nature of lying and refrain from adopting a draconian approach that perpetuates a cycle of deceit.
2. Harness your Child’s Creativity and Non-Linear Thinking
On a similar note, it should be said that children can learn to tell secondary and tertiary lies (which tend to be customised to suit the accuser and far more believable) even in a more relaxed environment. This behaviour is often a sign of strong cognitive abilities and intelligence, however, while it can also highlight a child’s enhanced level of creativity and ability to think in non-linearly.
In this respect, your child’s ability to lie effectively is actually a sign of advanced cognitive development, which in turn should be harnessed and channelled into more beneficial pursuits. Encouraging your child to indulge their creative passions from an early age is a wise move, for example, particularly if you can engage them with detailed art projects or design tasks that encourage them to use all of their burgeoning intellect.
This will not only afford them a stimulating outlet that will improve their behaviour, but it will also negate the need to lie to others.
3. Createa more Forgiving Home Environment for your Child
Ultimately, a universally strict approach parenting only seems to exacerbate cycles of lying and duplicity, which can become ingrained in your children and cause them issues in later life. So while you should look to maintain an open and informed mind in instances where your child lies, it is also crucial to create a forgiving and understanding environment in which your offspring are allowed to make honest mistakes.
The key to this is treating each misdemeanour on its own merits, fully appraising the circumstances and the action of your child before taking action. In instances where your child has caused you to be angry, this period of reflection will help you to fully understand the circumstances and decide on an appropriate cause of action.
So while there may still be situations where some form of punishment is required, you will at least place an emphasis on the fair treatment of your child and discourage them from resorting to lying as a way of covering up their indiscretions.