"If you don’t behave yourself I’m going to call the police!"

"If you keep making that face, it’s going to get stuck like that "forever!"

"Keep reading in the dark and you’ll go blind!"

Years into the future and we find that the police never came no matter how naughty we were, our faces look more or less normal, and we have the eyesight to make sure of that in the mirror.

How could we ever have believed such lies? As adults, we look back and realize the baloney we had been fed by our parents in our childhood.

These little lies might have worked for the short term, but a new psychology study led by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) suggests that it may cause more harm as children become adults. The study was carried out in collaboration with the University of Toronto in Canada; the University of California, San Diego in the United States; and Zhejiang Normal University in China.

Adults who were lied to more during childhood were more likely to return the favor by lying to their parents as adults. They would also find it difficult to overcome psychological and social challenges. Their inability to adjust to adulthood can manifest as disruptive behavior, conduct problems, the experience of guilt and shame, as well as selfish and manipulative character, reveals the study.

Lead author Assistant Professor Setoh Peipei from NTU Singapore's School of Social Sciences said, "When parents tell children that 'honesty is the best policy', but display dishonesty by lying, such behavior can send conflicting messages to their children. Parents' dishonesty may eventually erode trust and promote dishonesty in children."

The study evaluated responses shared by 379 Singaporean young adults.

The findings indicated that parenting by lying may lead to behaviors such as aggression, rule-breaking and intrusion.

Another area yet to be explored would be the nature of the lies or intent of the parent. Asst Prof Setoh said, "It is possible that a lie to assert the parents' power, such as saying 'If you don't behave, we will throw you into the ocean to feed the fish', may be more relevant to children's adjustment difficulties as adults, over lies that target children's compliance, e.g. 'There is no more candy in the house'."

Such lies can ultimately undermine a child's emotional well-being, adds Asst Prof Setoh.

Effects of helicopter parenting
Being overly focused on your children's lives or helicopter parenting may prove to be very harmful for their lives in the longer run, several psychologists and child experts suggest. Above is a representative image of a father and a son. Getty Images