Tuesday, January 17, 2017
The secret to raising an honest child
The secret to raising an honest child: Hold your tongue if they admit they have done something wrong
• A new study looked into how children feel about lying and honesty
• They told stories to kids involving doing something wrong
• Kids aged 4-5 are more likely to think lying is a good idea than those aged 7-
• Those who are less honest also expect parents to react badly to lies
When your child does something wrong, the natural way to react might be to lose your temper.
But getting angry may do more harm than good, according to a recent study.
Children are more likely to tell the truth when they expect their parents to react positively, even if they know they are going to get punished.
"When your child does something wrong, the natural way to react might be to lose your temper. But getting angry may do more harm than good, according to a recent study
When your child does something wrong, the natural way to react might be to lose your temper. But getting angry may do more harm than good, according to a recent study (stock image)
Understanding how children perceive lying and honesty can give important insights into a child's behaviour.
To explore this, researchers from the University of Michigan looked into what kind of feelings children have about lying and confessing when they have done something wrong.
Dr Craig Smith, from the Center for Human Growth and Development, presented a group of four to nine-year-olds with a series of hypothetical questions told through different stories.
In each situation, the children had done something wrong then either lied about it or confessed.
‘In one story the transgressor stole candy from a friend, and in the other story the transgressor pushed a child to the ground in order to obtain a playground swing,’ the authors wrote in the study published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.
In half of each of the stories, the main character told the truth about what they had done and in the other half, they lied.
Children are more likely to tell the truth when they expect their parents to react positively, even if they know they are going to get punished (stock image)
The researchers asked how the kids felt during and after reading each story, focusing on how they thought the characters felt and why they did what they did.
Afterwards, they asked about the characters’ parents and how they expected them to react, while also interviewing the children’s mothers in real life about how honest their children are.
The children aged four and five were more likely to think positively about lying and negatively about confessing, while the seven to nine year olds understood better that lying is wrong.
HOW CHILDREN LEARN TO LIE
A study published in October last year found kids’ perception of truth and lies changes as they get older.
Researchers from McGill University analyzed the behaviour of nearly 100 children between the ages of six and 12.
Overall, the children were easily able to distinguish between truth and lies, regardless of age.
In deciding which behaviours to reward or condemn, the researchers noted two significant differences among the age groups.
When assessing a ‘false confession’ scenario, in which a character would claim responsibility for another character’s misdeed to spare the real perpetrator, the younger children were more likely to view this as negative behaviour than older kids.
A similar trend was seen in the case of tattling.
While younger children were less concerned with the negative consequences of truth-telling, older children were often conflicted.
‘Looking at how children see honesty and deceit is a way of gaining insight into different stages of moral and social development,’ said Victoria Talwar, a Canada Research Chair in McGill’s Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology.
This means, even if they believe they could be punished, shows older kids are more likely than younger children to view confessing to a misdeed as the right thing to do.
But this does not mean little kids do not experience guilt or understand lying is wrong, the researchers say.
Instead, they are more likely to lie because they expect their parents to react badly.
‘Children who anticipated that an authority figure would be upset following a child’s confession were rated by their own parents as less likely to confess compared with children who expected an authority figure to be pleased by a child’s decision to confess,’ the authors wrote.
This means, kids who think their honesty is going to be met with a positive reaction, even if they will still be punished, are more likely to tell the truth, the researchers say.
One sure way to guarantee a child will not confess is to ‘bite the kid's head off immediately,’ Dr Smith said.
‘It goes along with the larger picture of being approachable as a parent,’ he said.
‘Convey that you're going to listen without getting angry right away,’ Dr Smith added.
‘As a parent, you might not be happy with what your child did, but if you want to keep an open line of communication with your child you can try to show them that you're happy that your child has told you about it.’