You cheated, you lied

One reason (one that most people are probably already aware of, at least intuitively) for adults not to model lying to children.

A new experiment is the first to show a connection between adult dishonesty and children’s behavior, with kids who have been lied to more likely to cheat and then to lie to cover up the transgression.

Not a big surprise, is it. Children take their cues from adults. Where else are they going to take them? Goldfish? They learn what to do from people who are older than they are.

So there’s one of those lab experiments, which seems fine as far as it goes but not necessarily all that relevant to more natural kinds of relationships.

The study was not designed to get at the reasons that children are more likely to lie when they have been lied to, but to demonstrate that the phenomenon can occur, Carver said.

What happens when trusted care-givers do the lying also remains an open research question. But Carver and Hays are still urging restraint. Even if it’s expedient for an adult to lie — to get cooperation through deception, for example, or to get children to control their emotions — it’s probably a bad idea in the long run.

That would include religion. Of course hardly anyone will take it that way, but it would. It would include all kinds of claims framed as certain when they’re not even close to certain.

H/t Dan Fincke.


  1. Jackie, all dressed in black says

    Kids may not always listen to what you say, but they pay attention to what you do.

  2. lung says

    That would include religion

    and a childs religion is santa, the easter bunny, the tooth fairy
    which parents lie consistently and perennially for the formative years

  3. Shatterface says

    A lie is when someone tells you something they know is untrue with the intention of deceiving you.

    Religions aren’t ‘lies’, they’re delusions.

  4. Blanche Quizno says

    “And rich kids get better presents than poor kids.”

    Even within the same extended family!

  5. rikitiki says

    But, but, but…Santa actually DID give me evidence!
    There were presents under the tree!
    Which, considering how many times my prayers went
    unfulfilled, makes Santa more real than Jesus (or
    any other god).

  6. Blanche Quizno says

    Yah srsly – if I were going to go with an invisible, undetectable being, it’s Santa all the way!

  7. says

    I was very uncomfortable with my girlfriend doing the whole Santa thing with her daughter.

    I remember, a year or so before she (officially) worked it out, having a conversation with my sistar about how weird it is to think of someone literally believing in Santa — as Jews in America, we were familiar with the concept, but had never believed.

  8. says

    Yeah. This is one of the things I’ve put into my big-bin-o’-s**t one half of my blood relatives do.

    Get this for a potential text book example…


    Dad lies, and lies, and lies, and lies about lying, and lies about forgetting so that he can pretend to be mistaken, and lies and lies and lies some more…

    Dad is like this for decades before Son is born, and Dad is like this after his Son is born.

    Dad tells misogynistic joke to Son, and tells Son not to repeat it to Grandmother and Sister. Dad doesn’t tell him why to keep it a secret, which may have helped (if you accept that telling the joke wasn’t the cause of the problem in the first place) because Son is a young Aspie fella.

    Son goes and tells misogynistic joke to Grandmother and Sister anyway.

    Dad blames Son. Dad continues to teach misogynistic jokes to Son anyway. Dad continues to lie in front of Son, usually in the form of excusing himself from responsibility, which is par for the course for someone continuing to tell the jokes he’s telling to Son.

    Son comes home claiming bullying at school. Son describes select details. Father takes Son to Police to report threats.

    Not long after, Police report back that Son had threatened a girl at school with rape, provoking the “bullying”. Son spins (obvious) bulls**t story about how it was just a joke. (“Just a joke! Geddit?”).

    Dad then absolves himself of responsibility by rhetorically wondering where Son gets his misogynistic jokes and lying from…

    True story.


    (Stay tuned for Part 2: “I don’t remember you mentioning that the middle-aged single man I let babysit my daughter, voices paedophilic ideations about young girls and is fixated on helping my daughter with her body image, which he claims he is uniquely positioned to provide help for, despite her having no body image issues needing assistance. By which I mean I do remember, I just don’t want to be held accountable.”)

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