Remember being sent to bed without dinner, grounded and forced to stay in your room for the day, or banned from watching TV for a week? I do.
But does punishing kids actually change their behavior for the better? New research shows that threatening punishment actually encourages another unwanted behavior: lying.
It makes sense. If lying (“I didn’t drop your phone and crack the screen – promise!”) means I avoid getting punished, I’ve just gotten positively reinforced for lying.
“If you want to encourage your child to tell you the truth and establish a pattern of honest communication, research suggests that a firm but warm parenting style that encourages honesty without threatening punishment is your best bet,” says Charity Ferreira on the Great Schools blog.
I realize this approach easier said than done, but here’s what I recommend:
- Don’t explode at your kid when there’s been an infraction.
- Do your best to stay calm.
- Talk to your kid about what’s happened. Make the consequences for their behavior fair and reasonable.
- Initiate a discussion about what an appropriate consequence should be. That way your child gets the message that being honest with you works out in their favor— even when the truth is something they know you’re not going to like.
More resources on how the science of character development can guide your parenting style here: Building Character