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Parenting: Truth vs. a Polite Lie

About the episode

What do we teach our children about telling the truth? New research shows once again that in some cases we are giving quite contradictory messages.

In this study, 267 American adults were shown videos of children between the ages of 6 and 15 telling the truth or lying in different situations.

And there were degrees. In some videos, the children told the harsh truth, in others they spoke of a mysterious truth. In the case of lying, in some scenarios they did so to protect someone and in others not to offend someone.

After watching the videos, the adults had to rate the children on the basis of friendliness, reliability, and intelligence, among other things. It turns out that kids who told the harsh truth were judged more severely than kids who lied or told a nebulous truth. But only if the lie is done out of politeness.

Well, this was a small study in one country and it did not investigate how a group of adults behaves in their family situation, but it does show something about the complexity of socially desirable behavior. Where politeness seems to triumph over “You are not allowed to lie.”

Read more: Children who tell the honest truth, instead of lying, are judged harshly by adults.

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