So is there a way for parents to make it clear that lying is a bad habit? Wang offers a qualified suggestion.
Researchers have also examined why some kids lie more than others, and have found that it isn't related to better moral values or religious upbringing. Rather, it's kids with better cognitive abilities who lie more. That's because to lie you also have to keep the truth in mind, which involves multiple brain processes, such as integrating several sources of information and manipulating that information ... The ability to lie—and lie successfully—is thought to be related to development of brain regions that allow so-called 'executive functioning,' or higher order thinking and reasoning abilities. Kids who perform better on tests that involve executive functioning also lie more.
Some studies suggest there is no long-term effect of parenting on lying behavior, but the work of Dr. Talwar and her colleague Angela Crossman at the John Jay College at the City College of New York shows that a certain type of parenting style seems to discourage lying. They suggest parents discuss why there are rules against lying. Also, parents who point out when kids lie—and also acknowledge when children come clean—can foster more truth-telling, says Dr. Talwar.