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Liar Liar Pants on Fire! How Punishment Can Affect Children’s Honesty

March 2, 2012

This post is from 2 of our Experts on the blog that form the rational and thoughtful whole of Soho Parenting. To read more of their writing, head to ParenTalk.

A recent article in Child-Psych gives important data about children and discipline and lying. In a nutshell, the harsher the punishments, the more kids lie. Yet another piece of date to support the goal of  approaching punishment from a calm, centered place instead of reacting in anger.

A study conducted by Talwar and Lee looks at two separate West African schools, one with punitive disciplinary practices, the other non-punitive. Children at both schools participated in a ‘temptation resistance program’. While almost all children  failed the resistance portion of the program, the response afterwards varied greatly. Only half of the children at the non-punitive school lied about their actions, compared to the punitive school where nearly all of the children lied. Additionally, the children at the school with harsher punishments made up more elaborate lies as compared to the other.

Harsh and severe punishments will actually increase the likelihood of a child developing a habit of lying. Consequences to bad behavior is crucial, but it is also just as important to keep a level head when communicating it to your kids.

Jean Kunhardt, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, has graduate degrees in Early Childhood and Special Education from Bank Street College. In addition to leading parenting groups, she specializes in children’s sleep as well as working with couples and adults using a mind-body approach to psychotherapy. She and her sister, Sandra K. Baslie, are the granddaughters of Dorothy Kunhardt, creator of the beloved children’s book, Pat the Bunny. She is the proud mother of high school and college-aged children.
Lisa Spiegel has a Master’s in degree in developmental psychology from Columbia University and is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. From her two decades of work with adults and children, she has developed an approach that draws on an eclectic range of disciplines, including psychotherapy, hypnosis, meditation, yoga, and EMDR. She also specializes in children’s sleep issues, as well as marriage counseling. She enjoys spending time with her high school and college age daughters.

For more than two decades Soho Parenting has offered realistic, insightful and practical guidance to strengthen parents and help create close and communicative families. They are Soho Parenting and blog at ParenTalk