How To Encourage Your Child To Tell the Truth
Kids are cute. But they don’t always tell the truth.
Just do a search on YouTube and you’ll find any number of adorable kids blaming accidents on their pets, dolls, or anything besides themselves.
While most lies might be minor, you probably don’t want your child growing up thinking it’s okay to be dishonest.
But how do you encourage your child to tell the truth?
Psychology says there’s a number of things you can do. But a recent study highlights why children may choose to honest or dishonest. And how you can influence which one they decide to go with.
How? Here’s what they say…
You Need To Be Approachable
Researchers who published a paper in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, found that kids who associate positive emotions with telling the truth, are more likely to do so.
This includes not only feeling good about being honest, but also about how a parent may react to their bad behavior. They state that:
…children who expected more positive parental responses to confession were reported by parents to confess more in real life than children who expected more negative parental responses to confession.
Thus, the current research demonstrates a link between children’s emotion expectancies and actual confession behavior.
It’s not that psychologists had children tell them this information in some business meeting. They had to find a way to discover how a child’s emotions would affect real world behavior…
A Clever Truth Experiment
Who knows what’s going on in a kids head, right?
If psychologists want to understand why a kid might lie or tell the truth, they needed to understand how children go about making that decision.
So the experts devised an experiment where kids, ranging from the age of 4 to 9, would hear two different stories. Stories about children behaving badly.
One story had a character that stole candy from a friend. The other was about a child who pushed someone off a swing.
In half the stories, the candy-stealer fessed up, while the swing-pusher fibbed. But in the other half, the candy-stealer was the one who lied and the swing-pusher told the truth instead.
During and after the story, psychologists also asked what the kids thought about the characters’ feelings, thoughts and emotions. But they also asked the children how they thought the characters’ mothers felt.
The psychologists then turned to the parents. They gave them a series of statements about lying and honesty. Parents then rated how well the statements described their child.
Using that data, the psychologists found that the children who are more likely to tell the truth were the ones that were more likely to link honesty to positive emotions.
Meaning that they thought the characters in the stories would feel better for telling the truth. And that the fictional characters’ mothers would be happy that they told the truth.
That’s all fine and good you might say, but how do you go about putting this into practice?
What To Say To Encourage Your Child To Tell The Truth
Children, especially younger ones, really do want to please their parents. So you have to make sure that the incentive to tell the truth is stronger than it is to lie.
When parents “fly off the handle” it’s more of an incentive to hide the truth. If they think you’ll go into a rage every time they do something wrong, they’re going to make an effort to avoid it.
Lead psychologist Craig Smith says it doesn’t mean you can’t get mad. However:
“Convey that you’re going to listen without getting angry right away.
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.”
It’s more about establishing from the beginning that you’re glad they’re telling the truth and appreciate their honesty. That it’s courageous to do the right thing, even when it’s difficult and even when there’ll be consequences.
When they feel good about doing the right thing, and know that you won’t yell and scream, they’ll choose to do the right thing.