As soon as my kids learned to walk they learned to get into trouble. And as soon as they learned to talk they learned to lie about the messes they made. People have differing methods on how to teach a young child a lesson. I don’t think spanking them or locking them in their room does much so I have chosen to use another method that has had surprisingly good results.
Many kids learn to lie out of fear of punishment. They see it as a way to protect them even though, just as the action that got them in trouble, the lie is just compounded by poor thinking. So what the parent’s really want is for their child to have a better process of thinking rather than a fear of punishment.
My father taught me through compassion rather than punishment. Instead of getting upset which would only raise his blood pressure and make me scared he would ask me to talk about what happened when I had done something wrong. He would sit me down and without judgment ask me what I learned from my experience. He would tell me if he was a little disappointed and ask me if I knew the difference between right and wrong and then ask me what I should do next time. When I was older he would have me write a full page letter to the person I may have wronged, explaining why I did the thing I did and showing remorse in an apology.
This helped me in several ways.
I was learning through my own actions and began making judgments at a young age. I had to really reflect on what I did and what reasons I had. This would make an impression on my mind so that next time I would think about my actions before I repeated the mistake. I was really measuring what I was doing and learned to think before I acted which lead to impulse control.
I wasn’t afraid of my father’s punishment which might cause me to hide something like painting the kitchen floor red. Now I could make a confession before it was too late and maybe spare myself a more harsh punishment. I knew that coming forward was the best solution and the sooner the better.
And most importantly it lead me to having an open line of communication with my father. By learning to tell him stuff right away and not worrying about a punishment it created an area of safety. I know that I still got in trouble as a kid, as many kids will do, but this process of honesty was more important.
The process of creating a safe area to confess, amnesty if you will, developes a habit of open communication and truth telling. As children grow older this becomes good character building for them. They learn to see their mistakes and own up to them without fear. Even though some punishment may come, the parent is likely to be more lenient if they see the child has learned something and is remorseful for their actions. And the absence of lying will give the parents more confidence that the child will be less likely to make the mistake if they understand their actions.