WSJ: How to Teach Young Kids to Tell the Truth.

Interesting.  Young kids don’t really understand morality until age 10.  Giving them positive motivation is far more effective than negative threats or stories.

WSJ: Young children, with their rapidly developing imaginations, are often liable to tell fantastical stories. But what Dr. Lee and his colleagues have been studying for more than a decade is different: when children learn to lie. (Don’t worry, lying is a totally normal part of development, they say.) They also study whether young children can tell when others are lying and the factors that affect how children learn to become moral creatures.

In their latest study, which took about a decade to complete and was published in June in the journal Psychological Science, the team studied whether children could learn about honesty from common childhood stories with morals at the end.

Surprisingly, however, those who heard the George Washington tale only lied about half the time, a significant improvement over the other groups. Those who heard “Pinocchio” and “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” were just as likely to lie as those in the control group.

“The only time it works is when you only talk about the positive things,” Dr. Lee says. “The kids seem to be very sensitive to negative information.”

Children also seem to respond to the concept of promises. In a study published in 2010, those who said “I promise” when asked not to lie decreased lying by about the same amount as those who heard the George Washington tale, even if the children weren’t able to define what a promise means. These effects, though meaningful, suggest that many children fib. Researchers will continue to examine factors that could reduce fibbing, Dr. Lee says.

Darcia Narvaez, a psychology professor at the University of Notre Dame who also studies moral development and moral tales, found in a series of studies that children often don’t understand themes in stories until about age 10. Even then, they tend to absorb something different from stories than what adults do. With George Washington, the child’s takeaway may be, “Do whatever you want then tell the truth—adults are suckers for this,” she wrote in one paper.

Fascinating article – for the full story, click on the top link

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