Lying: The Developmental Truth

I stared at the toast lying on top of the trash in disbelief. I was ticked. My four year old told me he had eaten all of his toast and wanted something else to eat. I went into the dining room where he was eating his peaches.

“I thought you told me you ate all your toast?”
“I did.”
“No, you threw it in the trash.”
“No, I didn’t. I ate it all.”

I took him by the hand and led him to the trash. “Look, there’s your toast.” He looked at me like he really didn’t know how it had gotten there.

This wasn’t the first time I’d caught him in a lie and I was frustrated. I couldn’t understand it. I don’t punish my children. I don’t reward them either. What do they have to fear by telling me the truth? My 7 year old had never lied to me. I really believe he’s physically incapable of it. It would alter his universe of science and order too much. But my 4 year old was born with his own personality and had no qualms about chaos. I felt connected to my youngest child. Our relationship was good. From all of my research and involvement with AP, I naively believed that if my parenting was focused on relationship, things like this wouldn’t happen. So why was he lying to me?
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Part1: Rewards, Incentives, Consequences, and Punishments (Oh, My!)

At a recent API meeting, a few moms asked questions about the differences between rewards and punishments which I thought was very useful.  We hadn’t specifically discussed them before, and it was helpful to define our understanding of the words we often hear regarding discipline.  Based on attachment parenting, positive discipline, and unconditional parenting, here is the break-down:

Rewards vs. Incentives:

A reward is something that is given conditionally; you only get X if you do Y. An incentive is letting someone know of an enjoyable activity that is soon to come.  As soon as Y is done, X happens.  The difference here is that enjoyable thing (X) happens even if the behavior leading up to it wasn’t perfect.  It’s unconditional.

For example, a mom always gives her son a snack when they drive somewhere, but sometimes there’s a struggle actually getting him into his car seat.  Because having a snack in the car is something they do every day, the snack is not the reward for getting into the car seat; it’s the incentive. She reminds her son that, “After everyone gets buckled in our seats, we have a snack.”  That’s the order of events, and something he can look forward to after getting in his seat.  She wouldn’t withhold the snack if, despite her best efforts, there was still struggling and crying about getting into the car seat.  Her son is hungry and he needs it; it’s snack time.
Continue reading Part1: Rewards, Incentives, Consequences, and Punishments (Oh, My!)