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Nurture Shock – Chapter 4: Why Kids Lie

If you are just joining the conversation this summer I’m doing a Julie and Julia – sharing my impressions each week of a different chapter from the book Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children and sharing one of my favorite recipes. Be sure and scroll down for a better blueberry muffin! Chapter one was about praise. Chapter two focused on sleep. Last week’s post was about race. This week our focus is on lying, and what first caught my attention is what the research says about parents who think they can tell when their child is lying – they can’t. The research also shows that people believe girls are telling the truth more often than boys when boys actually do not lie more often. Other highlights from Chapter 4:

  • By their 4th birthday almost all kids will start experimenting with lying.
  • Children with older sibs tend to learn how to lie earlier.
  • Observations in their homes showed a 4-year-old lying once every two hours and a 6-year-old lying about once every hour.
  • Same studies showed 96% of all kids offer up lies.
  • Children are very literal when it comes to honesty. If Dad said he’d take Justin to the park and doesn’t for whatever reason – then Dad lied.
  • Lying demands both advanced cognitive development and social skills that honesty simply doesn’t require.
  • Children first begin lying to avoid punishment.

I can definitely relate to this last point. When I was a kid I lied to avoid punishment. We have observed our own children over the years do the same. Our dilemma was do we discipline for the bad behavior or the lie or both? Honesty has always been one of our most important family values as I’m sure it is for most families. Although we sometimes could not tell which child was telling the truth and which was not, we tried to use it as a teachable moment and discuss how we valued honesty. Which of course meant we had to ‘walk the talk’. Our kids were magnets for disception and we were often called on the carpet for our own ‘white lies’.

I was surprised by the research on tattling. According to the authors one of the largest teachers’ training programs in the US ranks children’s tattling as one of the top 5 classroom concerns – as disruptive as fighting or biting another classmate. Let’s face it – children who tattle can be annoying. But the researchers found that nine out of ten times a kid runs up to a parent to tell, that kid is being completely honest. One researcher found that parents are ten times more likely to chastise a child for tattling than they are to scold a child who lied. No wonder our kids are confused!

The research also found another important fact – the lies children tell early in their life can have a profound effect on them later in life. Pointing out lies when they occur is an important piece but also how parents react can affect how one processes that lie. “Dad didn’t seem to notice so I guess I can do this again” or “I got caught and still feel awful about it.”

What’s your experience?

Next Week – The Search for Intelligent Life in Kindergarten

This Week’s Recipe – Better Blueberry (or Raspberry) Muffins
My daughter found this recipe in time for the 4th of July. We didn’t have any blueberries so we used raspberries instead and the muffins were delicious!


1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tsp sugar, divided
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats (not instant)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons lowfat buttermilk
1 egg
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups fresh blueberries or raspberries washed and dried


1/4 cup blueberry or raspberry all-fruit spread
24 fresh blueberries or 12 raspberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, 1/2 cup of the sugar, oats, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk buttermilk, egg, oil, and vanilla. Toss blueberries (or raspberries) with flour mixture. Pour wet ingredients into flour mixture and stir gently. Line a 12-count muffin pan with paper liners (or spray a nonstick pan with cooking spray). Divide batter evenly, sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until tops are just set. Remove pan from oven; top each muffin with 1 tsp fruit spread and 2 blueberries (or 1 raspberry). Bake 3 to 5 minutes more or until golden. Cool in pan for 10 minutes and serve.

Adapted from Shape Magazine July 2010

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