Sorry, I Just Don’t Believe You
Dear Mr. Dad, My 12-year-old daughter is a liar. I wish it weren’t true, but just about everything that comes out of her mouth is a lie. If she tells me she’s texting a girl from school, it’s probably a boy. If I ask whether she’s cleaned her room, she’ll look me straight in the eye and tell me Yes, even though I know (and she knows I know) that she didn’t lift a finger. If I were to ask her if the sky is blue, she’d probably tell me it isn’t. Why is she doing this and how can we get her to stop?
A: Telling lies is a part of human nature, and it starts very early in life. A study on lying done at Toronto University in Canada found that about one in five two-year-olds lie, but by age four, nine in ten were doing it. And the lying doesn’t stop when we grow up. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that 60% of adults can’t make it through a simple 10-minute conversation without telling at least one lie (in fact, people in the study told an average of three lies in that 10-minute period).
Lying is a learned behavior. When we’re very young, we look at the adults in our lives as all-powerful and all-knowing. Trying out a lie—and getting away with it—shows us that people can’t read our minds. As we get older, we discover that lying can sometimes get us out of trouble and may even help us avoid getting punished. The more successful the lies, the more often we’ll tell them.
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