The International Journal of Psychology has reported that most parents in both the USA and China tell lies to their children in order to change their behaviour.
The most frequent example was parents threatening to leave children alone in public unless they behaved.
“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.
But there were many other lies told, ranging from talking about fantasy characters tooth fairy to telling children that a pet had gone to live on a farm, rather than that it had died.
Some lies were positively intended – as with telling a child that he/she had drawn a beautiful picture or played the piano well.
The researchers found many variant lies attempting to control misbehaviour such as, ”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.”
Getting children to eat unpopular food was also a common reason for lying as with, ‘Broccoli makes you taller’
The study recognises that such lies could influence family relationships and leave deeper marks in the psyche as children get older. It is not unknown for children threatened with being left alone who then has to face a period of time without a mother or father present, to have significant difficulties in later life with being left alone.
It is also a fact that is often not considered in school where children are told not to lie and may be punished for lying. The reality is that children are brought up in an environment where lies are told on an everyday basis, and although the lies may not be seen as lies at first that will ultimately be discovered by the children as their awareness of reality increases.