Children lie. Does it make them social deviants who are undoubtedly raised by horrific parents, children who are simply being kids, or somewhere in between? Just the other day a local adventure for two sisters brought kids and lying to the forefront of public discussion. The headline read, “Girls get caught for late-night goat walk”. Honestly, my first reaction was that these were local college kids who were having a wild Saturday night. Not so – it appears two sisters, ages 6 and 7, were having an adventure of sorts and creating one lie after another to cover their goat tracks.
Here is a recap. These two young girls attended a party at the local park where several different animals are kept. They became infatuated with the goats and hatched a plan to return that night to steal one. At 11:30 that night a 911 call reported two pajama-wearing girls walking along a fairly busy street – with a goat. The responding officer questioned the girls, who explained their “plight”. According to them, their mother purchased this goat for them, but because their father is unaware of it, they must keep him in their closet during the day and take regular goat walks at night. Wow. The officer escorted the girls home, the goat was returned to the park, and the scrutiny has been laid on thick around here about the lies these girls told on their adventure.
It is one of the funniest news stories I have read in a while, and it happened just miles from my home, allowing me the rare opportunity to imagine precisely where these characters where and what they were doing (making me laugh even harder). After reading the facts of the story and then the comments and reactions, I was left wondering about the great debate: are these children doomed to be crafty liars or are they doing what most kids do and experimenting with life and their place in it?
What’s in a lie?
A scary statistic from NurtureShock, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, reports that an average 6-year-old will lie once every hour, and almost all children lie. Kids tell lies for varieties of reasons, but they can most often be grouped in the following categories:
- To cover up a poor choice
- To get out of punishment or deal with the consequences of the poor choice
- To increase social power
- To deal with frustration and overcompensate
- To get attention
- Because they have learned it from us, their parents.
- For no apparent reason (Perhaps the most dangerous of the reasons because the cause can’t easily be identified and dealt with by parents.)
For the two girls who took the goat from the park, their lies to the police officer were apparently in efforts to avoid punishment for their choice, and perhaps as a way for them to be able to manipulate the situation and keep the goat. There has been public debate over whether or not this was a harmless act or a symptom of a much larger and more severe problem.
Bronson and Merryman also report that lying, especially those lies which evolve and include details, are actually signs of cognitive intelligence. The fact that these girls were in their pajamas, had not fully developed a plan for taking care of the goat, and could not even tell the officer their home address, might make some question their IQs. However, it is not until about age 11 that kids understand the repercussions for lying and grow to be aware of the impacts lying has on others. Public opinion includes sentiment that these children displayed egregious signs of negative character and are doomed to a life of crime. While I’m not ready to condemn them yet, it is important for parents to know the danger signs of lying from their children.
- Your child’s lies put him in physical or emotional danger (these girls were in danger, but thankfully came to no harm).
- Your child lies to get out of basic responsibilities in life on a regular basis.
- Your child lies for no apparent reason.
- Your child is older (elementary and above) and still resorts to lying to get what is wanted.
- Your child is lying in partnership with other bad choices, such as stealing or bullying.
What can parents do about lying?
Yes- these girls do appear to have taken lying to a whole other level. There is concern for how they could be so confident in their abilities to sneak out of their home, walk a great distance away from home, steal a goat, and then present such a false scenario to a police officer. I would not want to be that parent who has to decide how to deal with all of those behaviors rolled into one very public stunt.
How we react as parents to the lies we find our children telling is just as important as why they are lying in the first place. Young children often lie out of fear of punishment or to avoid the consequences. Once we are able to create relationships with our children where they feel safe coming to us, honestly discussing their mistakes, and working together to make them better, we will reduce the likelihood that they will lie.
Who knows? Perhaps if these girls had felt able to just ask for a pet goat (and maybe they did), they wouldn’t have felt the need to steal one from the local park to keep in their closet. Although I wouldn’t have gotten such a good laugh, and chances are that the answer would have been “no” to the pet goat request, it is amazing that their desire for this animal reached such heights. Some are calling them creative and intelligent, while others are labeling them as criminals in the making. I am stuck in the middle – seeing two girls who obviously have some issues with rules, put themselves in a dangerous position, but aren’t really old enough to comprehend the full scale of their lies and actions. Hopefully this was an isolated incident and their goat-lifting days are over.
Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/BetterParenting/~3/mMd7s9KXpEk/