Getting Kids to Tell the Truth

Lauren Epstein

Punishing kids for lying may not actually promote honesty, according to a new study from McGill University. Researchers found that children ages 4 to 8 were more likely to fib if they were afraid of being punished than if they were asked to tell the truth because it would please an adult or because it was the right thing to do.

Lead researcher Victoria Talwar, Ph.D., associate professor of educational and counseling psychology at McGill University, recommends talking to kids about honesty in everyday conversations, not just when conflicts arise, so you can discuss the topic without emotional attachment. Also crucial: praising honesty, even when you’re unhappy with what your child has revealed. Saying something like “I’m really upset that you broke the rules, but I’m glad you told me the truth” demonstrates that honesty is a trait you value, she says, making your child more likely to tell the truth in the future.

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