Spanking Makes Kids Lie

(and has been known to make parents lie, too)

Many parents claim to spank to keep their kids from lying. Not only does that NOT work, kids who aren't spanked have no need to lie.

My daughter Holly was at an overnight New Year's Eve party, beginning of 2003. She was 11. (Still is at this writing.)

Two other girls, one homeschooled, one not, were talking with her about methods of punishment at their houses. Holly said she was never grounded, and not spanked. The third girl, friend-of-friend, expressed amazement. "Even if you lie?"

"I don't lie to my mom."

"But if you don't get spanked, you could lie all the time!"

"Why would I?"

Holly, at eleven years old, came home and told me about this, and it seemed very clear to her that the other girl lied to avoid spankings, but that the lying itself seems to have become a goal, an ideal.

What kind of relationship is that when a child dreams of lying without punishment? Meanwhile, Holly can't conceive of lying.

Here's another tale of truthful children, which was posted on the mailing list of

Subj: Lying and punishment
Date: Tuesday, March 4, 2003 10:04:00 AM
From: sorcha-aisling...
To: [unschooling discussion list]

When I was a kid, my parents were spankers. There were years that I got spanked at least once every single day, and I almost never knew why. My parents considered me "defiant", "disobedient", and I got in trouble a lot for "talking back". I was never sure, as a child, what "talking back" meant, because it seemed that just about anything I said was "talking back". I lied to my parents all the time, and I tattled relentlessly on my brother.

Now I have two sons. To say my way of parenting is different from my parents' is an understatement. Well, my older son is nearly five, and even though four is the age when children are "expected" to start lying, my son never lies. (What's wrong with a society that has an age where children start lying? And it's considered normal?) If he didn't do something, he won't take the credit: if I come into the living room and all of his toys are picked up, I might thank him for picking up. If he didn't do it, he'll tell me his father is the one who cleaned up the toys.

If he did do something, he'll take the blame: a few months back he wrote on my dresser with marker. I assumed his brother (almost 2) must have done it. He told me it wasn't his brother, it was him. Now, I can remember one time when I was a child and I confessed to something very similar. I'd written on my brother's sheets with crayons and, after a Sunday school lesson about telling the truth, I confessed. My parents took me to the garage, thanked me for telling the truth, and spanked me. I learned something, and it wasn't the importance of telling the truth. Then they spent the next ten years explaining to me, over and over, why it's wrong to lie, and telling me stories like the Boy Who Cried Wolf. I've never had to tell my son that lying is wrong; it's never occurred to him to do it.

As far as tattling, the very few times he's felt the need to run and tell me what his brother was doing, his brother was doing something legitimately dangerous. He doesn't tattle to get his brother in trouble; he looks out for his brother's safety.


More ideas about dealing with dishonesty

More on spanking or other parenting issues, or unschooling in general.