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November 4, 2013
The Truth about Lying
Deception is a term we use to describe a number of kinds of dishonest words or actions. Lying is only one piece of the bigger puzzle. Some people define lying as saying something that is not true, but we believe lying has more to do with the intent of the speaker. The person who reports inaccurate information is just mistaken unless he intends to deceive. We believe that lying is best defined this way:
Lying is stating something, either written, oral, or with other signals, with the intent to mislead.
In other words, lying has two components: 1) a statement of one kind or another, and 2) the intent to mislead.
If your son says, “There are no more chocolate chips,” to deceive you because he wants to sneak some into his backpack, then he’s lying. If he says, “There are no more chocolate chips,” as a joke because you need another cup for the cookies and he is teasing you, that’s okay as long as he’s just playing a game. Children need to understand the difference between these two types of scenarios and realize that they can’t change their minds about the intent after they say the words.
This brings us to an interesting problem. Sometimes when children are caught lying they will say, “I was just joking,” or “I didn’t really mean it.” They know that this would be a viable excuse. Children need to understand that the difference between joking and lying has to do with intent and with whether or not they are believed. We need to be careful when we tease or joke. If you have a problem with lying in your home you may want to discontinue that kind of teasing for a while.
This parenting tip comes Chapter 8 in the book, Good and Angry, Exchanging Frustration for Character In You and Your Kids by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN. The chapter is entitled “Honesty: Giving the Gift of Integrity.”