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While I was drafting my blog during the week, I came across a situation. My thoughts went into analyzing the incident and eventually I decided to change the topic of my blog. I felt that I had to share my experience with you all.
Do you remember when did you first lie? Do you remember what made you lie for the first time? Probably not. It would have been long ago while you were still a kid. At that age, one doesn’t realize the difference between good and bad, truth and lie. It would be interesting to understand why do children lie? Where do they pick this habit from?
Many a times we have seen parents getting embarrassed because of the straight talk of their toddler. The child doesn’t hide anything. The child speaks its mind and will do so in front of anyone without fear. Those who have raised kids, would agree with me on this. The question is, if this is their inherent behavior, when do they make the transition from straight talk to lying. What makes them do so? The answer is that they make this transition right under our nose and in fact we parents make them do so. We do not realize it until it’s too late and has already become a habit.
Let me tell you the reason. I call the trigger as “Fear of Consequence”. Fear of consequence is the main cause of this behavior change in children.
Let me take you through my experience. My son who is now Five years old, as many other children, likes to play with water from a very early age. My wife and I used to allow him play under our supervision. We started to take him to the swimming pool when he was about three years and he enjoyed playing in water. As he grew older and started going out to play with his friends in the evenings, we stopped accompanying him. We had told him he should not venture into the swimming pool, not to go into muddy places, be careful about insects – basically we had issued a list of statutory warnings. But kids are kids, they do what they want to. Remember what I said some time back, they do what they want, without any fear. One day while playing he got into the kids swimming pool and came back home drenched in water. He said he got into the swimming pool to pick a ball that fell into it. He was very proud that he could retrieve the ball. As parents we were worried that its very dangerous for him to get into water without being supervised. We did not want him to repeat it. We yelled at him and he got spanked. We thought we did a good job and our son had learnt his lesson.
Little did we know that we had taught him his first lesson on “Fear of consequence”. Children at that age think straight and understand things as they happen. They are not very good at reading our mind, they cannot understand our intentions, our concerns etc…The actual learning that my son got that day was, "if I get into the swimming pool and tell my parents, I will get spanked". He loves water so much. He could not resist the temptation of getting into water. This time he came home drenched in water and told someone pushed him into the swimming pool. We tried to check who pushed him into water and got to know that he went in on his own. The fear of getting spanked taught him that he should hide things that might land him into trouble. This is how most children make that transition and this is how we help them make this transition.
This fear of consequence grows as the child grows and they carry it to their adulthood. I am sure many of us carry it even today. As long as the focus is on bad behavior and not on good behavior, this fear is going to decide how you react. I would say it’s very unfortunate to do things based on fear rather than motivation.
I am a dog lover and I read a lot of articles on dog psychology. One of the articles I read mentions about how dog trainers have evolved their training methods from punishment/fear based to reward based. Over a period, dog psychologists have realized that negative reinforcement does not yield consistent and lasting results and does not help in building loyalty in dogs. On the other hand, positive reinforcement techniques that reward good behavior has a strong positive impact on its behavior and loyalty.
If positive reinforcement approach can make such a big positive change in dogs, imagine what can it do to humans. Its ironical that having understood dog psychology, we fail to understand child psychology. We practice what we have learnt. But everything that we have learnt is not right. I am willing to accept that. I am taking a step forward and learning to unlearn this habit so that I can shape the future of my children better. Let them not make their choices based on fear but based on what the feel is right. I am glad that I am not alone when it come to this change. I see there are many parents who believe in positive reinforcement techniques. Are you one of them?
Note: All Images are from Internet.