Schoolkids: they've got their reasons
Shea McMahon, 8, and his brother Jack, 6, of Austin, Texas, both denied pilfering their sister's hospital newborn bracelet from a keepsake box. "I yelled and cajoled and said no Sunday breakfast for either one until they confessed," says Shannon McMahon. A few minutes later, Jack owned up. But when his mom asked for details, he panicked. "Finally, he admitted, 'I got nothin'. I just wanted you guys to stop asking,' " she says. Then Shea, the real perp, burst into tears.

Jack's attempt to take the rap for his big brother signals an important developmental step: the ability to tell a white (or "prosocial") lie -- one that benefits someone else or is told to avoid hurting someone's feelings. "It actually shows a bit of social awareness and sensitivity," says Crossman.

But as Shea's fib by omission shows, 5- to 8-year-olds also still occasionally resort to the not-so-white lie. Kids this age do so for all sorts of understandable, even forgivable, reasons -- for example, they're afraid of how disappointed you'll be or the punishment they'll get, even because they're pressed beyond their capabilities. (If, say, a kid's having trouble with math, he might insist he has no math homework.) Before you send your child to his room or take away his TV privileges for the day, try to find out what drove him to lie, and take his reasons into consideration.