Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

From Fibs to Whoppers. .

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

From Fibs to Whoppers. .

Article excerpt

THOUGH EXPERTS tell us all children lie from time to time, parents are often angry when they catch their child lying - and confused about how to respond. Most also question their child-rearing methods.

According to Paul Ekman, professor of psychology at the University of California Medical School at San Francisco and author of "Telling Lies" (W.W. Norton), one of the problems is that while parents consider honesty to be the most valuable trait a child can have, they rarely talk about it until after they've caught their kids lying.

Then they act like policemen, either punishing severely or trying to trap the child into revealing the truth. "That only teaches a child to be a better liar," Ekman says.

What should you do? Try to figure out the motive for lying - and then show the child how to accomplish the same objective without having to lie.

"Ask yourself: Did he lie because I'm such a strict disciplinarian that he was afraid to make a mistake? Did he lie because he thinks I don't care? Or did he lie because I taught him to?" Ekman says.

Suppose your 16-year-old came home after curfew. Instead of lashing out that night ("How could you do that?"), or hinting around the next morning ("So, what time did you get in last night?"), say directly: "I heard you come in one hour after curfew last night; there must have been some reason you broke our family rule. What happened?" If you question children in a way that encourages them to be truthful, you'll be more likely to get the truth.

Parents must examine their own behavior, too. Did you tell the cashier at the movie box office that your 13-year-old was only 12 so you didn't have to pay full price? Then you've unwittingly shown your child that one way to deal with life's problems is to lie.

"Most of us lie much more than we think we do," says Ekman, "but if we want honest children, we have to act honestly ourselves. …

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