Although honesty is generally taught as the best policy, around a childs birthday and holidays, the little white lie goes a long way. After all, kids are expected to grin and giggle at an itchy wool sweater as if it were the toy-of-the-moment they had been begging for. After a few years of awkward laughter and whispered scolding from parents, children tend to learn that a forced exclamation of joy earns them more smiles and hugs than the truth does.
Although this landmark on the way to knowing the difference between making grandma happy and making grandma really happy may seem of no use outside the living room, research published in the May 2005 issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the American Psychological Society, shows that there is a strong connection between a preschool childs reaction to an unwanted present and their ability to control other reactive behavior.
In a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and Texas A&M University, researchers Jessica E. Kieras, Renée M. Tobin, William G. Graziano, and Mary K. Rothbart found that childrens ability to put on a happy face when faced with a gift of an unattractive baby rattle was shown to predict their knowledge of the often-unspoken rules of acceptable behavior in society. The results speak to a childs potential to develop "socially appropriate expressive behavior" and a visibly even temperament, according to the authors.
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