In a study that undoubtedly surprised no one ever, researchers discovered that parents in the US, Great Britain, and China similarly attempt to change the behavior of their children using a wide array of falsehoods ranging from empty threats to false promises and bad science …
The most commonly used lie – popular with both US and Chinese families – was parents pretending to a child that they were going to walk away and leave the child to his or her tantrum.
Another lie that was common in both countries was the “false promise to buy a requested toy at some indefinite time in the future“.
Under the category of “Untrue statements related to leaving or staying” a parent was recorded as saying: “If you don’t follow me, a kidnapper will come to kidnap you while I’m gone.“
There was also a selection of lies relating to “fantasy characters”, also used to enforce good behaviour, such as in the run-up to Christmas.
The study found there was an acceptance of such lies among parents when they were used as a way of reinforcing desirable social behaviour.
… and in doing so ended up describing the origins of religion: separation from God, the promise of paradise, the threat of eternal damnation, angels and demons, and the obedience resulting from the prospects of such eternal punishment and reward.
The only difference being that we’re told that this fairy tale is true no matter how old we get. One interesting parting comment at the end of the article:
The study raises the longer-term issue of the impact on families of such opportunistic approaches to the truth. It suggests it could influence family relationships as children get older.
I can’t say that if I were in a situation where I had to deal with a couple of rowdy kids who were at an age where they were old enough to say “no” but not old enough to be able to reason with, I wouldn’t resort to some bizarre empty threat to buy me some short term peace. I really can’t. But in the end, I’d own up to it, especially as they did reach an age where they’d be able to understand why I have to set rules and boundaries.
I wonder why more people don’t look back at the religion they were taught during their childhood and put it in the same category as all of the other stories like, “spinach will make you strong”, “your face will freeze that way”, “keep doing that and you’ll go blind”. I guess if you look around and see that all of the adults still believe it, it has to be real … even if that’s the same reasoning that convinced them when they were little.