Traditional childrearing methods often focus on blaming a child for undesirable behaviors and punishing the child to end those behaviors. One of those behaviors is lying. Whether by “whooping”, spanking, yelling, or the more “evolved” versions of “time-outs” or taking away privileges and possessions, parents have often equated punishment with discipline.
There is another way. There are those who see behaviors in a larger developmental and environmental context. They recognize that certain behaviors are natural for certain aged children, such as the widely recognized tantrums of the “terrible twos”.
The terrible two tantrums are a good illustration of this point. As some of you know, the reason two year-olds tend to tantrum is that this is the age when they reach a stage in their development when they recognize their own selves as independent from their environment. They suddenly sense their power to make choices and to have opinions. This reflects itself in what an adult could view as contrariness. It’s not bad contrariness. It’s good, healthy, and appropriate contrariness.
Nonetheless, looking at the statistics, multitudes of parents see this behavior as something they have to correct through spanking or other punishment. That’s the way their parents raised them, and they also react instinctively believing it is their job as parents to show the child this is wrong by punishing the child to end the behavior. They believe that if they don’t, the child will turn out delinquent.
Studies show otherwise. It is children who are spanked who have more behavior problems as they grow.
The fact is that a number of behaviors which we consider wrong, such as lying, are often developmentally natural and require understanding. As children grow, if their parents react to their culturally undesireable behaviors with love, rather than punishment, the behaviors dissipate as the child naturally develops to a new stage of growth.
Additionally, it is sometimes not only development that is behind negative behaviors. Sometimes, the behaviors reflect struggles the children are experiencing in their own lives and families. As one example, if their parents frequently fight, the children will react to the stress.
On these points, please see this very informative and itneresting article about lying and appropriate parenting by Rita Brhel: Responding to Lying Positively, The Attached Family, March 23, 2012, Attachment Parenting International.