When it comes to morality, as research has shown, little kids don’t really do nuance — there’s right, and there’s wrong, and there’s not really space in between for messy things like effort or intent.

For all their moral snobbery, though, kids can be pretty bad at living up to those same high standards, particularly when there’s a punishment on the line: One the one hand, you can tell the truth about that bad thing you did and get in trouble; on the other hand, you can lie and avoid it. Unless the adults in your life have spent a lot of time hammering on the importance of honesty, there’s not really much incentive to go with option number-one.

[K]ids are more inclined to be honest when they know honesty will please their parents. “It goes along with the larger picture of being approachable as a parent,” lead author Craig Smith, a psychologist and former Research Fellow of Psychology at the University of Michigan, said in a statement. “Convey that you’re going to listen without getting angry right away.” It’s not a question of not getting mad, in other words; it’s more an issue of prefacing with an “I’m glad you told me” before launching into the harder stuff. Telling the truth is a lot more appealing when kids know they’ve done good — but still, just in case, it’s probably best not to let on how terrible you are at catching their lies.

Read the full article "A New Study Explains How to Raise an Honest Kid" at NYMag.com.