3 Troubling Ways Parents Help Kids Become Liars

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By Scott And Bethany Palmer The Money Couple

Everyone lies … Big lies, little white lies. We all tell them, and apparently, we tell them often!

Research indicates that most people fib as often as once or twice a day. As money coaches, we believe it! It’s staggering how often “bending the truth” shows up when couples come to us for help with their finances and relationship.

So who lies more—women or men?

Past research conducted by the National Bureau Of Economic Research reveals that men lie more often than women. Curious to figure out why men lie more, the Bureau conducted additional research … and the results are downright troubling!

The root cause of why men lie more than women? … Inconsistent parenting. Their study of 152 parents and their children (ages 3-5) showed parents lie in front of their sons 14% more than in front of their daughters (with parents lying a shocking 42% of the time in front of their sons during a coin game involving prizes).

Why are parents lying so much more in front of their sons?

Anya Samek, a professor involved with the study, says, “Perhaps it’s socially more accepted when men are dishonest, but not women. It’s not clear whether this is an evolutionary kind of trait where (parents) try to impart more honest behavior onto their female children, or whether it’s culturally formed.”

Whatever the reason, we find the outcomes of the Bureau’s study worrisome. In a society where money is one of the main causes of divorce, and knowing from extensive experience coaching our clients how much lying about money causes conflicts between couples … it’s sad to think parents have unwittingly set their children (their sons, in particular) up to fail in this area.

To that end, here are 3 ways you might be lying to your kids about money (and accidentally modeling dishonest behavior that can hurt their future relationships):

1. Shhh … she doesn’t need to know.
Do you live by the “what she (or he) doesn’t know won’t hurt her (him)” motto? Do you ever encourage your child not to tell mom (or dad) about a particular purchase?

Here’s an example: You and your son stop by the parts store “just to browse”. As the guys help you load the new floor jack, with a wink and a smile you encourage your son to keep this one just between you two.

Encouraging a “let’s keep this between us” attitude with your son or daughter teaches them the whole truth isn’t necessary if it might keep you from getting what you want.

Don’t be surprised when they decide to use that motto to their advantage at some point in the future.

Or as you and your daughter make your way to the front of the line, your daughter sets the stack of new shoe boxes on the counter and digs in her purse to find the joint credit card you share. Since she started high school you’ve made an effort to teach her about credit cards so you let her proudly swipe her card for certain purchases.

But, as she does, you say, “Oh, wait honey. Let’s not put this on the card. I don’t want to deal with your father at the end of the month. Let’s just use cash.”

Changing the method of payment does not change the method of deceit. Either the shoes are a sensible purchase for the family or they’re not. What does your secrecy teach your daughter?

2. Delayed dishonesty
Like so many parents you are probably feeling like you’re caught between being supportive of your child’s interests and talents, and watching your time and money disappear into the great ‘after school activity vortex’.

But, you don’t want them to miss out. So you sign Junior up, get him all the equipment and uniforms, and tell dad about the expense later, when it’s basically too late for him to say no. You may think you’re doing a good thing for your future Olympian or Broadway star, but dishonesty with your spouse is never a victory.

3. Beggars DO prosper
Sometimes, it just doesn’t feel like your spouse listens to you, especially when it comes to spending money. It doesn’t matter whether you’re asking for a space heater or space travel, your spouse always says no. But, if the kids want something, suddenly your honey’s hearing is impeccable.

So, do you use that to your advantage? You have the kids ask for a vacation to the beach or for the new dog. You plant ideas of things you would like to have in their minds so they ask (no wait, beg!) your spouse for it instead of you. Congratulations, you’ve just taught your kids a lesson in effective manipulation.

Look, we all slip and tell lies from time to time. It’s normal. But that doesn’t make it right or healthy. We see so many hurt couples with mangled marriages in our practice and, while it’s possible, let us assure you—getting a relationship back on track after it’s mired in the pain of dishonesty is not easy.

So, start your kiddos out right. Don’t use them to lie about money. Don’t bend the truth about finances. Be honest with them (and your spouse) about your money. That’s one investment guaranteed to pay off big!

Scott and Bethany Palmer are YourTango Experts known as The Money Couple. They are financial planners with over 40-years of combined experience, and most importantly wife, husband, and parents to our two sons.

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