If you rule the roost with an iron fist, your kids may have learned to become more skillful liars.
According to a research by Victoria Talwar, a psychologist and children’s development expert at McGill University, strict parenting may lead to kids who are more likely to lie to avoid punishment.
To conduct the study, Talwar visited two very different schools in West Africa: one with strict rules and one that was more relaxed. At each school, she asked a group of students to play a game that required honesty.
The Peeping Game
Talwar had children play the “Peeping Game,” a game in which kids were asked to guess what object was making a certain sound without turning around to sneak a peek at it. Children were instructed not to look, then left alone.
Later, an adult reentered the room and asked children if they peeked. This question was posed in spite of the fact that the adult already knew the answer thanks to a hidden camera in the room.
Kids were found to be more likely to resort to lying if they feared punishment. Of the two-thirds of children who did peek at the toy, those at the strict school were more likely to lie -- and to do so “very effectively.”
Are lies co-created?
“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.”
Adults do play a role in kids' decision to lie, says psychotherapist Philippa Perry, who believes that lies are often co-created by parents and children. This may be because strict parents don’t allow children to be in a situation where they feel they can tell the truth, she told the Daily Mail.
“If a child lies to get out of trouble then that lie is not all down to the child, it's a co-created situation. The atmosphere has been produced whereby the child does not feel safe telling the truth."