I hopped online today to come across this picture:
It made me kind of mad. You see, not only do I believe that humiliation doesn’t work very well in most cases, but I find it to be particularly asinine when it comes to lying. You see, when you focus on the lying part of what someone did wrong, two things happen:
- You tend to forget about the action that led to the lying in the first place and so that never gets addressed; and
- You make that person damn well sure they won’t get caught again.
Kids lie because they don’t want to get in trouble. Is that really so wrong? None of us want to get in trouble. And frankly I’m pretty sure our kids learned many of their lying habits from us parents. We lie about a lot and at times even ask them to lie. We tell them about made-up people who bring them treats and gifts or who take their teeth away. We get mad at them for making truthful comments in public (‘Mommy look at the fat lady’) instead of teaching them about the benefits of keeping some thoughts to ourselves. We tell them to tell family they love the gift they hate in the name of protecting feelings (as if lying is the only way to protect feelings when they could honestly thank the effort and thought behind the gift). They overhear us tell little white lies about why we can’t do something for someone else or make it to an event. You get the idea.
But mainly we force them into lying because the way in which we approach discipline over myriad other issues makes them scared to be honest with us. Scared we’ll be unreasonably angry. Scared we’ll hate them. Scared we’ll take our love away. So they lie and when they get caught and we humiliate them, we’ve confirmed every feeling they had before which is what led them to lie in the first place.
And yet we never look in the mirror. We never think twice about how our actions affect their actions. And we certainly never think that we would deserve the same treatment for the exact same actions. I think that’s flat out wrong.
So tonight, I did this just to see how it feels:
- I lied to her about the mini-rides at the mall being broken so I didn’t have to fork over the $2 they now ask for in order to ride them.
- I lied to her about Nutella not tasting good at all because it contains milk and she’s allergic.
- I lied to her about needing to go pee when really I just needed to have a moment to myself.
- I lied to her about the snail I accidentally killed by telling her he was sleeping.
- I lied to her about it hurting when she thought it was funny to hit me because I wanted her to learn that hitting can hurt.
Because I, like every other person I know (parent or not), lied to someone I love and I decided to see what would happen if roles were reversed and she could instill a humiliating punishment to me for lying to her (though I hope she’d be more kind if given the opportunity). This is what I learned…
- People will honk at you. I’m not sure if it’s good or bad, but they honk. I’m hoping for my sake, they understood my message.
- It’s EMBARRASSING. Despite the fact that I chose to do this myself, I was beet red within a minute and horrified that I had to stand there longer.
- Although I realize I was doing this voluntarily (with a glass of wine to help), did I think about the idea of lying to my daughter? Hell no. I was solely focused on how humiliated I was at standing on a busy street with a sign sharing my “failing”.
- Yes, I wouldn’t want to experience that again. Would it mean I stopped lying? As a teenager, no way. I’d keep lying but I’d get way better at it. I simply wouldn’t get caught. Why? Because if lying leads to this, what would the punishment be for me being honest about what had really happened???
I’m pretty sure people who drove by thought I was joking or ridiculous. Why not? The idea of a parent taking this type of responsibility for their actions is kind of unheard of in our society. But we expect to be able to dole out punishments like this to our children and be praised for it. The thing is, there’s no lesson here. The punishment doesn’t fit the crime and there’s no incentive to change, so it’s a fail on so many counts.
When will we learn?
**I would like to state that I have started doing my best to be honest in all accounts with my daughter, but I started doing this BEFORE this post.**
P.S. I do not believe that lying is okay. I just happen to believe that if we do it ourselves we need to work on that before we start doling out big punishments to our kids. There’s a difference between simply changing behaviour out of fear and changing it because we’ve internalized a message. I believe we all want our kids to internalize the message that lying hurts people so that when we aren’t around they will continue not to lie.
P.P.S. Many people have commented on various sites that my lies to my daughter are small and therefore not on par with what this girl must have lied about. I disagree. They may be “small” to me, but I can guarantee you they are big to her. Furthermore, for anyone who thinks small lies to our kids is okay, I ask if you’ll be okay if your kids decide that some of their lies are “small” too – will you simply accept that? I didn’t think so.