Catching your child in a lie can be confronting, but research shows that the capacity to deceive is an important sign of your child’s improving social & cognitive development. It may not be your first thought, but when you do stop to think about it, learning to lie is a highly sophisticated skill.
In order to successfully get away with a tall tale, children must first develops several capacities that will serve them well throughout their lives, including:
* Working memory
Children must remember details of the truth in order to separate it from their fib. They must also engage their inhibitory control in order to suppress the truth, shift their focus, plan ahead & commit to the lie.
* Cognitive capacity
Lying requires us to see the world from another person’s perspective, also called the Theory of Mind. It’s evidence that our child is learning to think about others & reflect on how what they say can influence someone’s version of reality.
Coming up with these crafted stories is a sign of your child’s verbal intelligence. They need to analyse the information they have & use their language skills to reason with you to convince you of their alternative version of events.
Sometimes lies demonstrate real feats of imagination. New characters, extraordinary achievements & fantastical outcomes, however you view it, it takes some creative muscle to pull off a credible lie.
* What you can do
While lying itself is not to be encouraged, the process of learning to lie is a developmental success story. As parents, we should expect our kids to lie and try our best not to be upset by it. With very young children, they aren’t trying to deceive you – they’re often just learning how this whole lying thing works. Try talking about how & why lying isn’t ok & try to think about why they felt the need to lie in the first place.
Has your little one tried to get away with any tall tales recently? Share your favourite in the comments below!
References: Evans & Lee 2013; Talwar & Lee 2002