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How does one train a young child to prefer telling the truth over lying?
I’m a professional liar (suspense fiction author), so my children have a hard time lying to me. My 9-year-old son is a terrible liar, my 5-year-old daughter is much smoother at deception, but I’ve got over 40 years on them, so I’m difficult to deceive.
Children typically start lying at around age 4 (although my precocious daughter started when she was 2), to test whether their parents can read their thoughts.
Interesting experiment if you want to test your infant children: Tell them to take the TV remote and put it in a sock drawer. Then ask them where the other parent will look for the remote when they come home. If the child points at the sock drawer, then you’ll know she still thinks adults can read her thoughts.
The thing is, deception and lying are part of human communication. If someone always tells the truth, they’ll be hated. So children have to learn the difference between telling the truth and being “tactful” without outright lying. For instance, children are often much more direct than adults: “The baby is ugly,” “That girl is fat,” et cetera. It’s actually very interesting to see how children develop sophistry.
If you want to discourage children from straightforward lying, my parents would say, “Al rent de leugen nog zo snel, de waarheid achterhaalt hem wel.” Translation? “No matter how quick the lie will run, the truth will overtake him.” Children will need to understand that deception with negative ulterior motives will eventually complicate their lives.
I was talking with a teenager who was an accomplished liar and he didn’t believe in telling the truth. I told him the story of Jean-Claude Romand, who murdered his entire family when he was about to be exposed as a fraud.
His fraudulent adult life began with a simple lie: Romand claimed that he had passed a second-year medical examination that he did not take. How that ended in the murder of his family can be found in the link. The consequences from lies can wreck lives and reputations, and are often needless, so to stay with the truth often serves us better in the long run.
Martin V. Halm is a fiction writer and professional confabulator. You can read more from Quora below: