There’s a post by Libby Anne that deals with punitive parenting and its effects on children. The results are not exactly surprising.
According to research by Victoria Talwar, a renowned expert on children’s social-cognitive development at McGill University, strict parenting tends to result in offspring that really know how to deceive. By producing an atmosphere of inevitable punishment for any wrongdoing, the children of these parents learn how to lie in order to escape any punitive measures for their nefariousness.
This is something that I know firsthand. My mother was “strict” and she has always been proud to say that she was strict with me during my upbringing. Maybe she was too strict.
In my case, I never wanted to tell her the truth. If I did, I was sure to get slapped or spanked. Truthfulness earned me a slap to the face, not a “Well, at least you were honest with me”. Truthfulness earned punishment and not praise. So I made sure to keep certain things hidden from her, made sure to not tell her the absolute truth about certain things I did when I was young.
Case in point: to this day, she still doesn’t know that when I was a senior in high school, I took off an hour early on the Friday of Homecoming Week, skipping out on a pep rally. She wanted me to stay through the entirety of the day and promised hell to pay if I skipped out. It didn’t matter that the whole campus emptied out after seventh period, I was supposed to remain. I didn’t and I swore my friends to utter secrecy about it, lest I earn my mother’s wrath. Even though that happened over twenty years ago, I’ve never breathed a word about it to her. (And I doubt I ever will.)
It became a way of surviving, of avoiding punishment: don’t speak a word of whatever my mother wouldn’t like and I wouldn’t face the consequences. It was the only way I could have something close to a “normal” childhood. I had to keep things hidden in order to enjoy them. Speaking the truth would earn repercussions.
Yes, there need to be consequences for rule breaking. But this needs to be decided on a case by case basis. Some rules aren’t as important or weighty as others and don’t deserve harsh sanctions. Others do require a firmer hand. But across the board strictness does nothing but earn a certain form of contempt from a child. That child will lie in order to avoid the repercussions of “bad behavior”. Lying becomes a survival mechanism, to a degree, saving the child’s skin in more ways than one. I should know, I’ve had to use it more times than I care to count.