When Children Lie – Patty Wipfler – Hand in Hand Parenting


This is a helpful site, and a helpful article, if you are looking to find effective ways to parent outside the culturally prevalent models of fault, blame and punishment. In the writer’s experience, most parents deeply want what is best for their children, and do their best in the ultimately challenging task of being a good enough parent. Unfortunately we live in a society that normalizes the harsh exercise of power, in many contexts treats controlling behaviour as helpful, and uses shaming, humiliating and punishing as coercive tools. Culturally, we teach and encourage people to behave in these ways, in their parenting as in much else. The reality is these are toxic ways of relating, and work no better with children than they do with adults.

Conscious parenting sites like Patty’s offer another perspective, and are invaluable in supporting parents in unlearning, and relearning, some aspects of what effective parenting can look like.

This passage gives a flavour (and invoked tears in the writer):-

‘The “I am not bad” lies. These are probably the most common, and the hardest for grownups to deal with. We see that our child has done something that’s beyond reasonable limits. We know who did it, and want the child to admit it. But he won’t. We want the child to take responsibility, but he keeps lying.

This is, for most parents, infuriating and frightening. We begin to worry about our child, and the kind of person he will be when he grows up! The truth behind this lie is an important one. We are big, children are little, and they depend—depend for their lives—upon our love and approval.

They won’t threaten their lifeline to us by saying something that will make us more distant from them, or angry at them, or harsh toward them. They can’t (and perhaps shouldn’t be expected to) cut their own lifeline to love that way. It’s a terrible thing to be humiliated. It’s a terrible thing to face an adult’s anger, or an adult’s punishment, when you are a quarter of their size and fully dependent on their approval.

Punishment and blame eat like acid at a child’s sense of security and hope. The truth behind this kind of lie is, “I have no idea why I misbehaved. All I know is that my life depends on my Mom and Dad’s approval.”’

None of us want to ‘cut our own lifeline to love’. None of us should be asked to. There are other ways.

Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter

Counselling Exeter since 1994


This entry was posted in acceptance, accountability, anger, blaming, child development, communication, compassion, conditions of worth, conflict, consent, core conditions, cultural questions, dependence, Disconnection, emotions, empathy, encounter, equality, ethics, external locus, family systems, fear, generational trauma, growing up, Hand in Hand Parenting, interconnection & belonging, internal locus of evaluation, kindness & compassion, love, parenting, power and powerlessness, relationship, self, self concept, self esteem, shame, shaming, teaching, trust, vulnerability and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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