Punishing Kids for Lying Is Counterproductive, Study
Punishing dishonesty in children is counterproductive, according to a new study.
A new experiment, which involved 372 children between the ages of 4 an 8, revealed that threatening punishment will not get children to tell the truth.
Lead researcher Prof. Victoria Talwar of McGill's Dept. of Educational and Counseling Psychology, said in a news release.
In the study, children were left alone in a room for 1 minute with a toy behind them on a table. The children were told not to peek at the toy, and a hidden video camera filmed what went on.
Later, researchers asked the children: "When I was gone, did you turn around and peak at the toy?"
The findings revealed that 67.5 percent of the children in the experiment peek at the toy, and older children were less likely than younger children to peek. Researchers also found that 66.5 percent of the children who peeked lied about it, and older children were more likely to tell lies and better at maintaining their lies.
Interestingly, children were less likely to tell the truth if they were afraid of being punished. However, they were more likely to tell the truth if they believed it would please the adult or if they thought it was the right thing to do.
The study also revealed that younger children were more focused on telling the truth to please the adults, and the older children were more likely to tell the truth because they thought it was the right thing to do.
"The bottom line is that punishment does not promote truth-telling," Talwar said. "In fact, the threat of punishment can have the reverse effect by reducing the likelihood that children will tell the truth when encouraged to do so. This is useful information for all parents of young children and for the professionals like teachers who work with them and want to encourage young children to be honest."