There is a new study out that suggests most parents tell lies to their children as a tactic to change their behaviour in families in the United States and China.
Well. Surely we knew that already? My parents used to lie to me all the time – The Tooth fairy, Father Christmas,”eat your carrots you’ll see in the dark”, “brocolli will grow hairs on your chest (why my mother ever thought that would work I don’t know) mostly the usual stuff and then suddenly the lies stopped just when I needed them most and they changed tack and moved on to harsh reality: “that sounded awful” (violin), “you look awful, go and put something else on”, “you have no idea what you are talking about”….
There is only one lie that is worth telling as far as I’m concerned and that is “Wine Makes Mummy Clever” – I’ve been saying this for years and they still believe it……
However, according to the report, the most frequent example was parents threatening to leave children alone in public unless they behaved. Another strategic example was: “That was beautiful piano playing.”
‘I’ll buy it next time’, the most commonly used lie – popular with both US and Chinese families – was parents pretending to a child that they were going to walk away and leave the child to his or her tantrum. MEAN one as I used to get that and of course, they never did buy it.
“Your pet went to live on your uncle’s farm where he will have more space to run around” Nope didn’t get that one either – had to watch goldfish getting flushed down the loo….
There were “untrue statements related to misbehaviour”, which included: ”If you don’t behave, I will call the police,” and: “If you don’t quiet down and start behaving, the lady over there will be angry with you.”
If these seem rather unheroic examples of parenting by proxy threat, there are some more startling lies recorded.
Under the category of “Untrue statements related to leaving or staying” a parent was recorded as saying: “If you don’t follow me, a kidnapper will come to kidnap you while I’m gone.”
There were also lies motivated by protecting a child’s feelings – labelled as “Untrue statements related to positive feelings.”
What about the stork stories parents used to tell their children about where they came from? I used to be very puzzled about all that.
The study raises the longer-term issue of the impact on families of such opportunistic approaches to the truth. It suggests it could influence family relationships as children get older.
Researchers concluded that this raises “important moral questions for parents about when, if ever, parental lying is justified”.