A new study of families in both the United States and China reveals what is perhaps a universal truth: most parents lie to their children, at least when they are young.

Most lies are told by parents who want to change and mould their children’s behaviours, researchers found. The most common lie from parents is the threat of leaving their misbehaving children at the shop or other public place, in a bid to get them to behave.

Parents also used this "instrumental lying" in order to enforce desired behaviours, such as getting children to eat broccoli by telling them it will give them a growth spurt.

However, one lie in particular can do more damage them good. To keep from having to fight in the toy shop, many parents have used the lie that they have not brought any money with them, and that they will "buy it next time." Similarly, parents tell their children that they can’t afford something when they can.

Instead of doing this, it’s important to encourage children in understanding the difference between a want and a need: perhaps explain that there is money for wants, like toys, this gets in the way of paying for food or housing, which is a need.

Arabela Velasco of MyEggNest.com, a leading UK children’s savings website, said: "Children can understand more about personal finance than we give them credit for, and parents should feel confident in educating their children about spending and saving. Instead of saying "we’ll buy it next time," parents may want to tell their children that they can help their children save for the item instead. Over time, children will learn that impulse buying is not the way to go about things, and instead set savings goals for items that they really want."

Teaching children to set savings goals for toys means that they will have experience with the basics of personal finance from an early age. Many parents start to introduce pocket money around this time, splitting the money into short-term savings for toys and longer-term savings, like the Junior ISA. This account allows parents, grandparents, and even the children themselves to save for a child’s future education, completely tax-free.   

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Arabela Velasco
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