“Self-regulation is not self-control. In fact, self-regulation is what makes self-control possible.”
Pinocchio is a cultural icon.
He is known for having a short nose that becomes longer when he is under stress, especially while lying. In the original tale, Collodi describes Pinocchio as a “rascal,” “imp,” “scapegrace” (mischievous or wayward person), “disgrace,” “ragamuffin,” and “confirmed rogue,”
I agree with the sentiment that Pinocchio is a cultural icon, however, I disagree with the association of the indelible negative connotation of lying, particularly in children. Lying has a place on the spectrum of learning for children and our reactions as educators and parents to lying should change to support executive functioning.
Lying in children as young as three (3) years of age is a leading indicator of a child developing their executive functioning ability.
What is executive functioning? Executive function is defined as “the process that underlies effortful control of goal-directed behaviour”.
Executive functioning include:
- Decision making
- Problem solving
- Other complex cognitive tasks
Stories such as Pinocchio and fables tell stories of the main character lying while knowing their decision actually conflicts with moral standards. Punishment and ‘bad luck’ follow these protagonists turned antagonists and are a result of their decision to lie, which paints a picture of lying as the ultimate sin. There are countless examples of punishing lying as the end result or moral of the story.
Lying can serve a purpose. Prosocial lies, or lies intended to benefit others, are ubiquitous behaviours that have important developmental consequences.
Development of a higher degree of executive functioning contributes to children’s ability to tell lies, both prosocial and other motivations.
The mastery of goal-directed behaviour (executive functioning) allows children to establish a goal of protecting another’s feelings, creating and maintaining the verbal aspects of the lie, and regulate all behaviours associated with the lie.
Lying expounds substantial brain power!
To maintain the lie, children must plan what they are going to say, and remember to inhibit any responses, weather verbal or non-verbal that is inconsistent with the lie, and recall the components of both the truth and the lie simultaneously.
Telling convincing lies requires strong executive function.
Research reports that executive skills develop in early childhood, about the same time that we see lying skills increase, which suggests that the two skills are related. Furthermore, additional research shows that a child’s development of executive function is a predictor of his/her tendency to lie.
You are invited to join me on a free webinar on the topic of Lies about Children Lying on August 4th, 2022 at 7:00 p.m.
The webinar will share more information about how to address children lying, as well as the progression of lying from preschool through school age.
Sulak, T. N., Bagby, J. H., & Renbarger, R. L. (2019). Lying and Executive Function: Connections to Montessori Education. Montessori Life: A Publication of the American Montessori Society, 31(2), 28–33.
See also: Summer Safety