A study of families published in the International Journal of Psychology has found that parents tell lies to alter how their children behave. I could have told the researchers that. If they'd spent just one tea-time in my house they could have completed the study in the space of 30 shouty minutes. Lies? I never tell anything else.
This study, conducted by the psychology departments at the University of California San Diego in the US, Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua in China and the University of Toronto, Canada, found that parents tell all sorts of lies to modify their kids' behaviour, from threatening them with kidnappings or pretending to forget a purse to invoking the Toothfairy and telling them that their dead dog has gone to live on a farm with plenty of room to run and play.
Is this really news? I've been lying through my teeth since the day my five year old daughter exploded into the delivery room. In fact my first lie was at exactly that moment, when she was plonked onto my heaving chest and I made a wild stab at looking like I knew what was going on. I've lied ever since.
In fact there are days when I lie to my child more often than tell her the truth. I lie about the brilliance of her artwork, the hilarity of her jokes and the captivating sound of her playing the piano with her feet. I lie about deadlines, about what will happen if she doesn't eat her peas and how overjoyed I am at being made to gaze lovingly upon another one of her mash mountains. Thanks to me she thinks Santa is alive and kicking, the Toothfairy has a cat and that the police will arrest her if she doesn't wave at fire engines.
Yet my parental lying doesn't stop there. I've lied to family ("I'm fascinated by your views on breastfeeding!"), friends ("The kid's ill. I can't make the party"), teachers ("No, it's fine! I had no trouble leaving work because she's got a chapped lip!"), doctors, (Of course I'm still taking the pills"), health visitors ("I promise to never warm her milk in the microwave again") and myself ("It's just a phase, it's just a phase, it's just a phase...").
And I've become good at it too. Before the arrival of my first and only-born you could read my face as if it were a screaming billboard above Times Square. Since said arrival, though, I could reduce professional poker players to tears with my steely, unflinching stare as lies trip off my tongue like lemmings off a cliff.
In fact if I couldn't lie I'd be, well, stuffed. I'd have to get my child to school/ to eat/ to sleep by making vapid, laughable statements that carry as much threat as a smack in the face from Sooty. Seriously, do you think my daughter is going to eat what I've cooked her when I truthfully tell her that if she doesn't scoff it, it doesn't really affect her health because another meal is due in four hours and she can always snack in between? Yeah, right.
See, I lie not just to get my girl to do what it takes to survive the day, I do it so that I can survive the day. I'm not going to mess about with "ums" and "ahs" while I'm juggling chaos, so instead I'll tell her whatever gets jobs done. And you just know that I'm going to dispense with the "maybes" when all I want her to do is sit still and shut up long enough for me to rinse a mug.
So, yeah, boffins of the world, parents do lie to their kids. Lie, lie, lie, all day long. Because without the lies there would be no children left; they'd be snatched, starved, sad, dead, bored or wildly misbehaved. Worse, there'd be no parents left because they'd have drunk themselves into a collective coma over little piles of Sticklebricks. Like I said, one shouty tea-time in my house could have told them that. All they had to do was ask.