Tuesday, September 1, 2009

La Verdad

The other day I was driving home from work, listening to NPR (yep, dork), when I heard a segment interviewing the author of this new book Nurture Shock. The author, Po Bronson, brought up a pretty interesting theory about lying in children.
Mr. Bronson said that all children lie (no duh), and that lying is a sign of nascent intelligence, indicating that the child understands the difference between reality and stories they create as an alternative reality. By age 4, all children "should" be lying. However, it is the parents' responsibility to "socialize" the child not to lie by age 7, or lying then becomes a coping mechanism for dealing with uncomfortable situations (in other words, they become pathological liars).
For the most part, children do not lie because they are just "bad." They lie because they do not want to be met with our disproval over the truth. In other words, Carter told us that he sat on Bennett because he thought he was a statue, because he thought that wouldn't make us mad, but telling us that he sat on his brother because he thought it was funny would (and yes, it would). What they do not have the capacity to understand at that age is that not only are we mad about the truth (because parents are after all omniscient, are we not???), but we're doubly mad that they lied about it.
So, how do you deal? Mr. Bronson says that the more severe the punishment is for lying, the more we drive our children to become better liars. Rather, you have to "socialize" your child not to lie. Parents should "preempt" a lie ('cause you can see it coming from a mile away) and say "Look, it would make me really proud of you or happy with you right now if you tell me what really happened." So yeah, you have to give up some of your irritation about the preciptous event, and "reward" in a sense the act of telling the truth.
Hm.....there's something to chew on.
Then Mr. Bronson turned to a subject which already causes me great anxiety - teenagers. He said that a study done recently showed that out of 26 topics, the "average" teen will lie to their parents about at least 12 of the topics (I think those are the correct numbers). On the low end, the very "best" teens only lie to their parents about 4-6 of the topics. So, parents shouldn't be so delusional as to believe they actually have an honest and open relationship with their child. None of them tell the truth all the time. But what makes the difference between the 12+ -topic liars and the 4-topic liars? According to Mr. Bronson, if the parents allow for some negotiation of the rules, the teens are more likely to "argue/negotiate" the rules rather than just circumventing the whole ordeal and doing what they want anyway. Mr. Bronson posits that if parents deliberately create situations where they are willing to negotiation/argue for some leniency with their teens on "easier" issues, that will encourage the teen to be more honest about the harder issues.


  1. i am super excited that you posted this and am going to try it out tonight because i can already tell you that Bailee WILL lie to me tonight. she is on a KICK with the lying. i have tried the boy who called wolf story - rather than take anything from it, she asks us to just repeat it but changing the wolf in the story to a bear, or a tiger.... then i have tried scare tactics otherwise known as MOM tactics - using the voice that she KNOWS means business, giving her that LAST opportunity to tell the truth. they work, yes, but wow is this author right in that the child is then just resulting to learning how to be better at lying, rather than just avoiding the wrath of the MOM tactics and telling the truth up front.
    they actually touched on this in church this weekend - there are rules and laws to abide to and to be guided by. if we mess up, God does not use GOD tactics - with a voice that we know means business, threatining to take away something we enjoy if we don't fess up - instead, He puts the rules out there for us, they are concrete, we'll make mistakes but know that we can be forgiven and know that He'll be pleased when we do fess up and apologize and correct ourselves.... and that we should be the same way with our children - we threaten and scare our kids into submission and obedience, when we are supposed to be the living form of God, but He would never do that to us, so what gives us the right to do that to them..... but then again, i have to admit it sureeeeeeeeeee is fun using my MOM tactics I worked so hard to earn lol ;)
    great blog entry and good food for thought.

  2. I am glad my kids are all grown is all I got to say!

  3. Amen Lizzie!!! And great post Chantelle!!! Teens should not make you anxious- they are SO MUCH fun! Way easier than little kids- TRUST ME! But, to respond to your entry, I think the guy is right! Scare kids and act holier than thou and your kids will lie just so they don't have to face parents' unreasonable disapproval. I didn't lie to my mom much because she was SO OPEN and I knew she wouldn't go bananas on me over the smallest thing. I saved lies for the big stuff that she wouldn't have wanted to know. LOL! I think I've come clean with it all now though. Lizzie's right though- God makes it clear that he wants us to be honest. His rules are put in place to guide us to have the best lives possible- not so He can punish us.