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New Study Finds Young Kids Have A Surprisingly Harsh Idea Of Morality

Flickr / Quinn Dombrowski

There’s no such thing as a perfect mom or dad, and if you ever feel like your kid is judging you when you struggle to do the right thing, science just weighed in: They are. According to a new study published in the journal Psychological Science, it’s not even enough that you ultimately make the right call — they’re judging you for having to struggle at all.

Researchers presented kids between the ages of 3 and 8 years old with 2 scenarios: one where a girl has to chose between cleaning her room or playing with friends outside, and another where a boy has to chose to come clean about breaking a lamp, knowing his ball will get taken away. Both children did the right thing despite losing what they wanted, the only difference was the boy experienced some internal conflict. When kids were asked to then award one of them a prize for “doing something good,” nearly 80 percent of them went with the girl who didn’t experience an internal struggle. But at least they’re as harsh and unforgiving with their hypothetical peers as they are with you.

Interestingly, when adults were presented with the same scenario the opposite was true. A majority of grown ups found the child who experienced some conflict first more moral (not to mention, believable). The authors of the study suspect that younger kids view all moral dilemmas as “inherently negative” despite the outcome, which is pretty judgmental coming from someone who’s coughed in your mouth more than once. The good news is that as they get older, their brains should grow to recognize and value the willpower and self-control that comes with such deliberation. Until then, your little moral compass may be just a bit off. Don’t take it personally.

[H/T] New York Magazine