Learn From George, Not Pinocchio

800px-George_Washington's_birthplace_(1856_engraving)Did you break this lamp? No.

Who ate these cookies? Not me.

Where is your homework? My dog ate it.

We all want our children to be truthful (honest; not telling lies). Let George Washington, not Pinocchio, be your teaching tool.

You have probably heard the story of George Washington and the cherry tree (see English Cafe 275). When George was a boy, he used his hatchet (sharp tool with a handle) to cut down his father’s favorite cherry tree. When his father asked him if he had done it, he said, “I cannot tell a lie. I did it with my little hatchet.” Most historians don’t believe this actually happened, but it is a story many American children are told to show the virtues (benefits of having a high moral standard) of honesty (telling the truth).

The story of Pinocchio is probably even more well known. Pinocchio is a character from an Italian children’s novel (book), and the story is known in many countries. Pinocchio is a puppet (toy moved by strings) made by a man named Geppetto. Each time Pinocchio tells a lie, his nose gets longer. This story is often told to children to show the negative consequences (results) of telling lies.

In a recent study, researchers who have spent years studying children and honesty set up a situation where it would be easy for children to lie: namely (specifically), a chance for children to peek (look when they are not supposed to) to get the right answer to a question when the researcher leaves the room. Before asking the children, ages 3 to 7, if they had peeked, the researchers told them a story. The children heard one of three stories: the story about George Washington, the one about Pinocchio, or an unrelated story. After hearing the story, the children were asked if they had peeked.

Nearly all of the children peeked, and about 65% of the them lied about it. But those who had heard the George Washington story lied significantly less. The researchers interpreted this to mean (believed it meant) that children responded better to being told the benefits of telling the truth than the negative consequences of lying.

Maybe there’s a lesson here for handling our politicians? Maybe Washington, D.C. (our national government) should have enforced (required) story time (when an adult reads aloud to groups of children).


Image Credit: From Wikipedia

This entry was posted in Life in the United States. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Learn From George, Not Pinocchio

  1. Aécio Flávio Perim says:

    Yes, teacher Jeff. This is a very good story for children learn not to lie. The truth is that children don’t have the real idea of what lies mean. They don’t have still the exact meaning of what is tell the truth or tell lie. Their mind is still growing up like their bodies. Grown up peopel shouldn’t take white lies seriously when they are said by children. I remember the punishments my father used to hit me because of lies. Children don’t do that with bad intentions. They even don’t know the range a lie can go.
    So let chilcren be children.

  2. Sebastian says:

    Thanks a lot Lucy and all ESLPOD. This is really amazing you encouraging people to tell the truth. That’s true too; children in their ages are getting all of our way of behavior, so, if we lie to someone in front of them or even worst to them, that’s going to be a pipe dream to educate people’s minset. I think when someone tells the truth, even though it is hard to accept the consequences, it’s going to pay off.
    Children are the future of this unhappy world, at least wheter they break through this, we all can say: Thanks God, there’s hope.


  3. sara says:

    Dear Lucy,I always enjoy reading what you write.thanks for writing here:)

  4. Dent says:

    Thank you dear Lucy , it was very intersting passage. In my opinion it is better that we(elders or parents) explain truth and lie to children before they learn about it from other people or maybe lie unknowingly. Children’s mind is like a white and clean board and it’s better wise people paint on it with beautiful and honest colors.

  5. Dan says:

    Hello Lucy.

    I am not sure about this topic. I do have a fixed/established opinion about lying.

    Personally, my experience tells me that telling the truth almost always is the best thing to do, and I tend to do that.

    Sometimes though, a little lie is required, depending on who you are dealing with.

    Sooo…Kids tell always the truth! and only when you are adults you are allowed to be a little bit dishonest like Dad and Mom.

    Thank you Lucy

  6. Parviz says:

    Hi everyone,
    And Thanks Lucy,
    I might have told a lie, but not a big bald-faced lie.
    Sometimes, I needed to get out of the class, but the teachers wouldn’t let me, leaving no choice other than fabricating a story.


  7. Parviz says:

    Hello again,
    The only time I peeked to get the right answer to a question, goes back to when I was at 7th great.
    It was a mathematics exam, and the teacher-as he said- trusted us.
    For the there was this intense competition as to who gets the highest score, I had to cheat on the exam, as I thought I was short of 18 (the lowest limit, only two grades lower than 20, the highest).
    Actually, after the grades were issued, I had gotten a 17.5. only 0.5 bellow the limit.
    I did get the prize, however, against the odds where there were students much much better than I was.
    I violated their rights, just because I didn’t honor the virtue of honesty.
    I never say that I never lied ever since, but that was different.
    It wasn’t much of a big deal, you may say.
    But the impression of a cheater sticks to my mind, to say the least.


  8. Zahra says:

    Honesty is in children’s DNA! They are born innocently. It’s us, adults, who teach them how to lie 🙁

  9. Tania says:

    Hi! Oh, Pinocchio! One of my favorit books for children, though I hate the lie.
    I like and Buratino, too.
    Buratino is the main character of the book The Adventures of Buratino by Aleksey Tolstoy
    based on the 1883 novel The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi.
    The name Buratino is derived from the Italian burattino, which means wooden puppet.
    Like Pinocchio , Buratino is a long-nosed wooden puppet.

  10. Tania says:

    Hi! I think , like Pinocchio, many, many children hate the school, and say lies. We call them little lies.
    May I quote from the Pinocchio’s thoughts?

    “If I stay here the same thing will happen to me which happens to all other boys and girls.
    They are sent to school, and whether they want to or not, they must study.
    As for me, let me tell you , I HATE TO STUDY ! It’s much more fun , I think, to chase after butterflies,
    climb trees, and steal bird’s nests.”

  11. Marcos says:

    We know Lucy that “We all want our children to be truthful”, that is true. Parents work hard to do that, they growing up and between them some will be politicians who we know, why!. Maybe they are who not learned the lesson.

    Nice day

  12. Tania says:

    “Shall I tell you something?” asked Pinocchio.
    “Of all the trades in the world , there is only one that really suits me.”
    “That of eating, drinking, sleeping, playing, and wandering around from morning till night.”

    Can we blame him?

    When Pinocchio told a lie, his nose long though it was, became longer.

  13. Tania says:

    Hi! I like all opinions of our blog friends, but I like very much the Dent’s opinion.

    “Children’s mind is like a white and clean board and it’s better wise people
    paint on it with beautiful and honest colors.”

  14. Abdulaziz says:

    Dear Lucy,

    Thanks for this passage that supports moral principles. What I know is that some of us (parents) lie to our children one way or another to silence them or solve the problem at hand. In contrary when the child lies parents become indifferent and try to bash her.

Comments are closed.