Monday, August 4, 2008

Not flaming, just a little toasty on the pants

So, do your kids ever lie? We've tried to treat lying as a serious offense around here. Lying gets a punishment reserved for pretty much only lying.
But should every untruth coming from your child's mouth be treated the same way?
I had a situation with Sam today where we were all outside and he and Caleb were riding bikes and having a good old time. No fighting, no problems at all. Caleb rode up to me and asked, "Why did Sam get a spanking?" "Huh?" I was confused. "Sam didn't get a spanking." Being 3, he actually tries to contradict me in this, "Uh huh! He said!" And sure enough, Sam had casually told Caleb that he'd gotten a spanking - don't ask me why, I have no idea - and then when Caleb told him that "Mama said you did NOT get a spanking!" he rode off singing, "Yes I did, yes I did, yes I did!" For this he got called off his bike and was made to sit on the front step for awhile - this is not our usual punishment.
Now, Sam most definitely knows what a lie is, but sometimes he's a little confused with teasing versus lying. He'll claim, "But I was just teasing." This in situations when he obviously is being deceptive.
I'm a little at a loss to how seriously all untruths should be taken.
On the one hand, I want to really send the message home that no lying will be tolerated, thought funny, or be called by different names.
On the other hand, there is the love of a little boy to tell fantastical tales of woe and gore.
I've started making them aware that there is a distinction between pretending and setting out to deceive someone. In pretending, everyone is in the light. In deceiving, someone is being led to think something else, and this is not honoring to God in any way.
So, any other suggestions?
Any situations you've run across in this department that you didn't quite know what to do with?


Beckie said...

I think you've created a good distinction with clear lines that they can understand. I think if you go down the road of assigning punishment relative to the degree of the lie, you risk sending the message that "some lies are only a little sinful" - a very worldly view. What is a little harder to set clear boundaries around is when you should give them the benefit of the doubt that they really didn't understand the difference between teasing and lying (probably more frequently with Caleb than Sam). This just comes down to the fact that you're an expert on your own children and you have to trust your judgment in each situation.

sean said...

I often struggle with sarcasm.

Brian said...

As an aside, I think we would all agree that regardless of that fact that all sins are sinful enough to separate us from God. But, the immediate (as opposed to the eternal) consequences are and should be relative to the severity of the disobedience (a.k.a "sin"). This is one of the reasons why discipline is so challenging as non-omniscient beings because we need to try and discern our children's hearts and intents in order to apply the appropriate punishment. I often find myself expecting the worst of my children and not believing them when they say things like "It was an accident" or "I didn't do anything, he just started crying for no reason". God is perfect in his Judgment and his Grace. I can try to emulate him but I will never be perfect.

sean said...

I thought moms were omniscient when it comes to their children.

Sarah said...

Sean, admitting it is the first step.

Sarah said...

On Brian's note, my dad likes to say that as Daniel grows up, if there was ever a doubt in his mind whether or not he was lying, he'd spank him, figuring it was better for the child to feel undeserved discipline than to get away with lying. Feel free to comment on this...

Lance said...

I guess I trust that verse in Numbers that says "be sure your sin will find you out". I don't think kids really get away with lying, although they may occasionally and temporarily get away with a lie. But they soon learn that it takes more lies to keep the first one going and eventually they mess up the story.
And I don't want to risk my children getting undeserved discipline (i.e. a spank just in case) because I want the kind of relationship with them where they'll feel safe telling me the truth.

Beckie said...

Even more important than the type of relationship you'll have with your children if you "spank just in case" is that, as parents, we represent God to our children. Do we want our children to think that God punishes His people "just in case" they sinned? This doesn't represent the truth that God is a fair and just God. Of course, God has the advantage of knowing our hearts and I see how perfectly emulating His "parenting style" is impossible for us, but to compensate for that we can also model His grace and mercy to our children.

I would also like to reiterate that parents are experts on their own children (in most cases) and that the "spank just in case" method may work for Larry and Daniel with no ill effect.