Friday, October 30, 2009


This post is an effort to glean from my readers' thoughts, experiences, and tactics for dealing with some child-raising issues that have developed for us recently. 2 things have arisen recently with our daughter, which raise questions with me, as I find myself almost tongue-tied when responding to her, so great is my ignorance for dealing with these issues. I hope you will comment liberally!

Firstly, LYING. How do you teach a child to tell the truth? When do you gauge they are old enough to understand the difference between what they *want* the truth to be, and what really happened?

Here's the scenario: "Violet, go to the bathroom and wash your hands." she obeys. 2 minutes later, she comes out with an absent-minded look on her face. "Did you wash your hands?" I ask, feeling that they are still sticky with supper, and indeed, she has not. "Yes, I did." is her confident reply, while looking me straight in the eyes. Hmmm.....what is going on here? What should my response be? Is it even important yet, that I point out to her that there is a difference between the truth and an untruth? She certainly carries no deception in her. Guilt, she sometimes has, when she is caught in a wrong (playing with books and toys during naptime). I know how to read guilt in her. But in this, there is no guilt. I am not sure how to proceed. What do you think?

Secondly, there is consistency in obedience. As Violet grows older, I want her responsibilities to grow with her. With baby #2 on the way, I want to be able to say, "Violet, go bring me such-and-such." while I'm nursing, and have her do it. However, she gets easily distracted, especially when I send her on an errand in another room, where she is not under my watchful eye, conscious of my command echoing around her. I understand that this ability to retain a command and accomplish it without supervision comes with growth. However, I am seeing complications with just letting her mature in this without responding to her actions, in addition to another bad habit forming during this "growth period."

Here's the scenario: "Violet, go upstairs and get into your bed and wait for me." She trots towards the stairs obediently. On the way up, she pauses on the landing to reach for blankie. This reminds her of "paci" and she detours to my bedroom for paci. Once in my room, she sees "Mr. Putter & Tabby" on the floor, and decides to plop down for a read. When I get upstairs, she is nowhere near her bed, as I've asked her. I call her, and usually she responds with a guilty start, and hurries towards her bed, bottom first, hands splayed protectively. Obviously, she's had a rush of conscience (and memory), and realized she's disobeyed. It is difficult not to apply the stick of training to assuage the guilty conscience at that point, since she's realized that she has technically disobeyed. However, I'm reluctant to administer a spanking for "forgetting" or "getting distracted" with one so young. Yet, how DOES one help a growing child to retain a command for more than a few seconds? I dislike just letting it slide, for then I begin to notice the trend worsening, where she will not even run straight away to the stairs at my command, but while still in my presence, she will delay obeying while reaching for this toy, or finishing up with that puzzle, or something like. See my dilemma?

Tell me your thoughts on this, friends. I am eager to hear of your successes/failures/untried theories.


Jenny said...

I'm pretty ignorant on both of these subjects, too, but I can tell you what we're doing and have done.
As for the "lying", we started out pretty hard on her for even the most "innocent" of lies. We wanted her to know that it's very important to be truthful ALL the time. So, if she doesn't know something, it's OK to say so. She has only flat-out lied a couple of times and each time we've come down really hard on her to let her know how very vital it is to NOT lie. She's hasn't done it for quite some time now. NOW, I will clarify and say that I'm a lot more lenient if it's an obvious memory lapse (that goes for the "flakiness", too, which she is ALL the time!). The two scenerios you lay out seem to be quite connected to me -- not necessarily separate issues. They want to obey, but their brains are going in 5,000 directions at once and concentration is HARD:)
I have to stop Evie and say "OK, What did I say?" to make sure she has heard me and understands what is expected of her. That extra verbal reinforcement seems to help (most of the time). Of course, there are also the times when she's so flighty that I just send her to her room for some less stimulating time (ie time-out) til she can focus again. It scares me a bit how un-focused she is! But, I'm greatly hoping that's just a sign of her age and she'll grow out of it. The frustration is that a year ago, she was actually MORE focused than she is now! Eeeeekkk!
SOOOOO...for us it's LOTS of communication about what is expected and repetitive instructions (as to behavior and not lying). Most of the time her "lying" seems to be connected to the brain lapses;) The few times when it's been a real lie, we've spanked and made a very serious impression (and that was even when she was very young).
I once heard a woman in a store ask her daughter who was about 2 why she did something she wasn't supposed to do and she said "Did you forget?". At the time I thought, that's nice that she gives her kid the chance to make it right (which I still agree with). It's a fine line between giving them the chance to make the right decision and allowing them to manipulate the situation. So, I've learned to do both! Allow them to give them the right answer and follow through...once. Talk about it and the next time, it's relevant discipline:)
I'm praying that both are just "phases" for us! The lying seems to have passed a bit, but the flakiness continues and I just kinda chalk it up to "my child is so brilliant that her brain is just going ALL the time";) And as long as I keep telling myself that, I'll maintain my sanity and keep from throwing her out the nearest window when I have to tell her 42 time to GET IN THE CAR!;)

Jenny said...

Sorry! That was a book (especially considering that I'm completely ignorant on the issue, too!)
and really needs a sit-down conversation. BUT, I wanted to also note that my friend Heather told me something I never forgot. Her parents started VERY young telling her how "God wants you to behave"...and His commands, etc. This made a huge impression on her. I also try to do this with Evie, though probably not consistently enough...and it does seem to put a punctuation mark on the issues;)

Joy said...

Hey Susi, just read your post. For the lying aspect, my solution is rather simple. And you take or leave it...but I don't give Brilla the chance to lie. I don't ask her, "Did you knock the salt all over the floor?" Or, "Did you break this?" Especially when it's obvious it was her. I just say,"Brilla, please help me wipe up this salt that spilled." When we spill something, we always need to tell Mommy about." I try not to put her in a situation where she could lie to me. At age 2 & 3, they are ready to please and will usually tell you "yes" or "no" if it makes you happy, not necessarily because they are being bad.
Don't get me wrong, I DO teach her the importance of truthfulness, and telling the truth, but I do it at separate times.
Of course, you have to use your God-given discernment as a parent and pray about every situation!

Joy said...

Don't worry, I'm struggling with this too! I think it's important to set limits, and follow through. What I mean by set limits is say,"Brilla, it is bedtime (or whatever). I'd like you to go to your room. You can get Kitty, too. I want you to be in your bed when I come in, if you're not, you will get a punishment." IF she's not in her bed, I remind her of my instructions, then implement the punishment. Even if you feel like she will never GET IT, you only have the responsibility of being consistent.

Denise said...

I really don't have wisdom with this, since I haven't been here yet. The forgetting thing does remind me a little of the part in TTUAC where he talks about his children having trouble hearing ("Daddy, I didn't hear that!"). He mentioned punishing for not listening. I'm not saying that's definitely needed here, but perhaps if she knew there were a punishment for forgetting, she'd remember to be mindful???

Anyway, just know I'll pray!

Seth and Karen's blog said...


I definitely know where you are coming from. Shiona tends to be like that at times. You mentioned that at times she shows no signs of guilt. I think it is because she has none. She may not be intentionally lying. Shiona is so in her own world at times and can easily be distracted. In the same situation you mentioned with Violet washing her hands I could see Shiona going into the bathroom with every intention of obeying bu then getting distracted and playing with something or other (heaven knows what could be so interesting in the bathroom!) Then she comes out thinking she has actually performed the said task. She has no guilt because in her mind she had every intention of washing her hands and got so wrapped up in playing that she not only forgot, but forgot that she had not done it. Some people may think I am cutting her too much slack, but I really think that is what is going on with my child. I don't let the disobedience slide, but I try to address the issue of forgetfulness and distraction rather than lying. However, several people made some very good points. I find if I make eye contact with her and then ask her to repeat my request she definitely shows more obedience and less forgetfulness. Also, just because she has forgotten doesn't mean it is all right. I try to train my children that forgetfulness is not a reason to be disobedient. I don't think there is an age too young to begin teaching the concept of truthfulness. Even if they don't understand fully, you are creating an atmosphere they will eventually grasp. Also, one more thing I want to mention. Susanna Wesley said she always gave her children one opportunity to tell on themselves or confess their sin. If they confessed without prompting they were not punished the first time. That way they would not be conditioned to be scared to tell the truth. However, if the same sin was committed again they were punished afterward. I really think this was a wise policy to have and have found it to be conducive in creating a desire for confession and honesty. Sorry, I feel like this comment is just a bunch of my thoughts jumbled together, but I hope if makes sense!