Most parents 'lie to their children'

 

People share some of lies they have told, or been told while growing up

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Most parents tell lies to their children as a tactic to change their behaviour, suggests a study of families in the United States and China.

The most frequent example was parents threatening to leave children alone in public unless they behaved.

Persuasion ranged from invoking the support of the tooth fairy to telling children they would go blind unless they ate particular vegetables.

Another strategic example was: "That was beautiful piano playing."

The study, published in the International Journal of Psychology, examined the use of "instrumental lying" - and found that such tactically-deployed falsehoods were used by an overwhelming majority of parents in both the United States and China - based on interviews with about 200 families.

'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.

"The pervasiveness of this lie may relate to the universality of the challenge parents face in trying to leave a place against their child's wishes," say the researchers.

Another lie that was common in both countries was the "false promise to buy a requested toy at some indefinite time in the future".

Start Quote

Your pet went to live on your uncle's farm where he will have more space to run around”

End Quote Well-intentioned or immoral? An example of what parents told their children

Researchers established different categories of these untruths.

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."

This included the optimistic: "Your pet went to live on your uncle's farm where he will have more space to run around."

A rather self-serving untruth was used for a quick getaway from a toy shop: ''I did not bring money with me today. We can come back another day."

There was also a selection of lies relating to "fantasy characters", also used to enforce good behaviour, such as in the run-up to Christmas.

'Broccoli makes you taller'

The study found no clear difference between the lies used by mothers and fathers, according to researchers, who were from psychology departments at the University of California San Diego in the US, Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua in China and the University of Toronto, Canada.

Tooth fairy The tooth fairy, bringing wishes to stressed parents

Although levels of such "instrumental lying" were high in both countries, they were highest in China.

The study found there was an acceptance of such lies among parents when they were used as a way of reinforcing desirable social behaviour.

For example, the lie told to children that they would grow taller for every bite of broccoli was seen as encouraging healthy eating habits.

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.

The researchers, headed by Gail D. Heymana, Anna S. Hsua, Genyue Fub and Kang Leeac, concluded that this raises "important moral questions for parents about when, if ever, parental lying is justified".

 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 763.

    The biggest lie is telling Children there is a God, and that their 'religion' has all the answers about him.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 762.

    581. InterestedBystander

    only if you're feckless enough not to see through simple trick maths.
    go to ebay and buy another braincell, even a second hand one that's faulty.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 761.

    Immoral? Someone needs to research politicians and their fairy stories. They do much more harm as millions are taken in by them whilst children are simply being prepared by parents to the reality of life. Or are these children being prepared as future politicians or being made aware of how politicians behave.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 760.

    @757.fuzzy

    Ha ha ha, she's rather autistic, she doesn't notice and I'm not discussing people you don't know on HYS.

    The general point was sometimes lies are better. How about the other example. Would you tell a kid you don't find their joke funny or laugh at it however many times it's told?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 759.

    People always lie irrespective if its to children or not, how else is the Houses of Westminster filled!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 758.

    When I was little my mum was learning to drive and jokingly told me that the L on the L Plates stood for Lunatic Driver. I think she regretted telling me this after I started going around telling all my friends that my mum was a lunatic driver!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 757.

    750And_here_we_go_again

    Often I will sit and listen for hours, some days I can't be bothered.
    Why hurt her with the truth?
    ===
    Yes, it's difficult. But it's not doing either of you any good. I can only suggest try to guide the conversation to better things, get her to laugh at herself, and you at yourself. Not easy. Think what would you want if it were the other way round? No one wants pity.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 756.

    my 3 year old niece thinks iam a pirate...i should never have lied to her but working in shipping was boring.... she wants me to take her nursery class on an adventure......

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 755.

    Why does stupid studies’ like this try and inform everyone what we already know?

    Parents lie because they cannot be bothered to explain anything to a child!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 754.

    @748 "lol HYS regulars turning a perfectly innocent article into an opportunity to bash religion yet again. Standard."

    Aye tis true. However on the subject of lies and what lies we tell our children the 'main offender' was bound to be targeted and ripped apart, so its not entirely off topic at least. At least people are not lying about how they feel about it on HYS.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 753.

    @748.
    Global Yawning
    "lol HYS regulars turning a perfectly innocent article into an opportunity to bash religion yet again. Standard."

    But naturally! This is an article about lies told by parents. The established religions have perpetuated the biggest and most damaging lies in history and passed them from generation to generation.

    What else to discuss?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 752.

    My dad used to take us to a local greyhound owners training quarters which was a large enclosed area with sandy hills open grass areas. The other children at school were always jealous that we were taken to "The safari park" so often .

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 751.

    744InterestedBystander

    Granted, but even that is not factually true. We rotate relative to the sun and it appears to rise.

    So this is the basis of my theory on perceived truth being the important thing, not factual truth.

    What do you reckon to my thought at 737?
    ===
    You're using the same term 'killer' but with different meanings.
    As for the sun, I claim it orbits us. Either way it rises.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 750.

    @747. fuzzy
    She never asks about me, so no chance of lie being found out.
    I know she'll whine because for the past three year, that is all she's done.
    I keep her as a friend as I don't have the heart to tell her I don't care to see her again (it is much harder to break up with friends then lovers)
    Often I will sit and listen for hours, some days I can't be bothered.
    Why hurt her with the truth?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 749.

    @253: "Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny etc isnt lying really"...
    When I realised that Father Christmas didn't exist, I saw it as lying... which was a good thing really, as it made me a lot less gullible. For example: if Father Christmas doesn't exist, why should I believe God exists? And so I've been happily atheist ever since...

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 748.

    lol HYS regulars turning a perfectly innocent article into an opportunity to bash religion yet again. Standard.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 747.

    738And_here_we_go_again

    Luther said it would be best to never lie, sometime a lie is better. A more day to day example:

    "Sorry I've already got plans tonight" vs "I can not be bothered to listen to you whine tonight"
    ===
    The danger is, what if they later find you at home doing nothing? Quick, another lie?

    Beside, how do you know they're going to whine, and if so why keep they as a friend?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 746.

    At least the lies told by parents to their children are not as sinister as those lies told to us adults by our politicians.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 745.

    Since institutionalized religions are founded on lies and religious belief is largely passed from parent to child, one has to ask not who lies, but who tells the truth?

    The fact that parents themselves don't know the difference is no excuse. All children should be encouraged to investigate for themselves, whether re the man who flies and delivers gifts or the one who died and came back to life.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 744.

    @739.fuzzy - "But, I think you'll agree, there are things we can be pretty sure about (the sun will rise tomorrow)"

    ***

    Granted, but even that is not factually true. We rotate relative to the sun and it appears to rise. The sun doesn't move. We do.

    So this is the basis of my theory on perceived truth being the important thing, not factual truth.

    What do you reckon to my thought at 737?

 

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