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Smart Kids Make the Best Liars

It’s a classic scene: a pre-schooler stands next to a crayon-covered wall, crayon in hand, shouting at his frazzled parent, “But I didn’t do it!” If this has happened to you, don’t worry. The little white lies kids tell are actually an important part of cognitive development.  New research by Dr. Kang Lee of the University of Toronto suggests that, “a quick-thinking 2-year-old who masters the art of fibbing actually has a fast-developing brain and will probably be successful in adulthood.”

Lee tested 1,200 kids between the ages of 2 and 16 and found that lying increases with age, peaking at age 12 when nearly 100 percent of children are apt to lie, and then decreasing to 70 percent by age 16, when they should know better. 

Because of my Catholic upbringing, I was taught at a very early age that lying would send me straight to h-e-double-hockey-sticks, so by the time I took my Dad’s truck for a joyride at age 16 (with only a learner’s permit), I confessed to my parents immediately.  I thought I’d be rewarded for my honesty, but instead my mother took me out of dance class.  (Which to this day gives me a reason to blame her for the fact that I’m out of shape.)  Lee says, “Catching your little one lying should be used as a teachable moment.” I certainly learned my lesson.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my daughter that telling the truth – even if something bad happens – is so important and that she’s less likely to get in trouble than if she tries to cover up her mistake.  I get a lot of shouts of, “Mommy!  Something bad happened!” and I’m fine with that.  I’m just hoping that means she’s as smart as the little sneak down the street.

Photo: Geishaboy500 via Flickr

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