London: There is no need to worry if a child is lying, claim experts, as it proves the kid has reached an important step in his or her mental development.
What`s more, it`s a sign of future success.
After studying 1,200 children, researchers from the Institute of Child Study at Toronto University, who carried out the study, reached the conclusion that kids can be confirmed to have developed "executive functioning", when they are able to keep the truth at the back of their mind so their fib sounds more convincing.
The researchers insisted that at the age of two, 20 percent of children will lie. This rises to 50 percent by three and almost 90 percent at four. By the time the children reach the age of 12, almost all of them will be deceitful.
However, the tendency starts to fall away by the age of 16, when it is 70percent. With adolescence, young people learn to use the less harmful "white lies" to avoid hurting people`s feelings.
The experts said that a "Pinocchio peak" came at about the age of seven after which it is hard to discern whether a boy or girl is lying without evidence.
"You have to catch this period and use the opportunity as a teachable moment," The Times quoted Kang Lee, director of the Institute of Child Study at Toronto University, as saying.
He added: "You shouldn`t smack or scream at your child but you should talk about the importance of honesty and the negativity of lying. After the age of eight the opportunities are going to be very rare."
As part of the study, the research team invited younger children, one at a time, to sit in a room with hidden cameras. A soft toy was placed behind them.
When the researcher briefly left the room, the children were told not to look. In nine out of 10 cases cameras caught them peeking. But when asked if they had looked, they almost always said no. They tripped themselves up when asked what they thought the toy might be. One little girl asked to place her hand underneath a blanket that was over the toy before she answered the question. After feeling the toy but not seeing it, she said: "It feels purple so it must be Barney."
Lee, who caught his son Nathan, 3, looking at the toy, said: "We even had cameras trained on their knees because we thought their legs would fidget if they were telling a lie, but it isn`t true."
Older children were set a test paper but were told they must not look at the answers printed on the back.
Some of the questions were easy, such as who lives in the White House. But the children who looked at the back gave the printed answer "Presidius Akeman" to the bogus question "Who discovered Tunisia?" When asked how they knew this, some said they learnt it in a history class.
Joan Freeman, professor of lifelong learning at Middlesex University in London and the author of How to Raise a Bright Child, said: "Clever children are going to be better at lying. Most youngsters grow out of lying if it is not an acceptable part of their culture. But if you are running a business when you grow up you might want to get away with something - and not telling the whole truth is on the edge of morality."