Blogging New York Magazine: Learning to Lie

Blogging New York Magazine: Learning to Lie

Carrie McBride
Feb 25, 2008

Would I lie to you?

Would I lie to you honey?

Now would I say something that wasn't true?

I'm asking you sugar

Would I lie to you?

If you're a kid, apparently the answer is yes - you would lie - a lot. Why? Because you're copying your parents according to an intriguing article in New York Magazine.

You might not be surprised to learn about the frequency that teens lie to their parents (and you probably remember doing this yourself), but would you expect 2 and 3 years olds to already be clever little fabulists? In fact, lying is a sign of intelligence and considered a "developmental milestone."

For younger children the motivation to lie is largely to escape punishment. As they get older, kids use lying to gain power and control and manipulate others. More disturbingly, kids lie because they learn it from watching their parents. Those little white lies - to get off the phone with telemarketers, to avoid awkwardness when given a lame gift, to make a friend feel better about her appearance - add up. Parents often encourage their children to tell white lies, usually in the service of appearing polite.

Encouraged to tell so many white lies and hearing so many others, children gradually get comfortable with being disingenuous. Insincerity becomes, literally, a daily occurrence. They learn that honesty only creates conflict, and dishonesty is an easy way to avoid conflict.

The New York Magazine article by Po Bronson is chock full of interesting experiments and studies about lying that might make you look at your kids, yourself and all your little white lies differently. Scout's honor.

(Photos by Martynka Wawrzyniak.)

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