Parents alarmed by kids learning to lie at an early age will have mixed feelings about a new theory that scholars have come up with at the Penn State University. Kids learnt to lie at an early age and do so to achieve various ends, including making friends and getting out of punishment. Some kids may also lie to be more in control.

The researchers at the university sat with a dozen high school students and interviewed them. The findings by the end of this interview were that lying is rampant and often unconscious. 98 percent of the teens reported that they had lied to their parents and broken the family’s rules. From this and other data collected from surveys of parents over two decades, it is being concluded that kids learn to lie at quite a young age, and learn to do so mostly from their parents.

What Kids Feel About Lying 

During the teen interviews, it came out that most kids – between 96 and 98 percent of the representative sample group – believe that lying is morally wrong and yet they did not realize how much they lied on a daily basis. As many of them said that honesty and trust are a must in personal relationships. At the same time, parents have been rating honesty as a quality that they want their kids to have more than other qualities like good judgment or confidence.

How Kids Learn to Lie 

It is not inconceivable that kids learn to lie from their parents. They watch and they learn. They see parents telling white lies to get out of a troublesome situation, smooth social relationships, to boast and so on. This makes them think it is okay to tell tales because no one finds out the truth and it does not get the parent into any trouble. Whether encouraged to tell white lies to be polite to the relative that gave a gift they did not like, or lies to protect others or themselves, it should be recognized that white lies are also lies.

Researchers suggest that lying is related to intelligence. The more intelligent kids learn to lie when they are between two and three years old. Lying is an advanced skill since it involves understanding the truth, conceiving an alternate reality and selling this alternate version to someone. By the time they are four kids begin to experiment with lying in order to get out of punishment. Many parents are advised to ignore this as it is seen as a sign of intelligence, but researchers say that kids could grow into the habit of lying if not corrected early in life.

The Solution

According to researchers, it is the process of socialization that can stop kids from lying. This means not just telling kids that lying is wrong, but teaching them the worth of lying. Studies conducted with young kids found that those who had the story of George Washington’s episode with the hatchet and the cherry tree read to them just before a psychological test lied less than others on it.