Family Values: Honesty
Raising Honest Children
To be honest means to speak the truth, even if it's difficult or gets you into trouble. Honest people communicate in an open, upfront way; they do not lie, cheat, steal, or manipulate information to conceal it from others. The exception is occasionally telling a "white lie" to protect someone's feelings. In recent days we have seen how dishonesty harms other people, even causing financial and political ruin. Today more than ever, children need to learn the importance of keeping their word, telling the truth, and being trustworthy. Honesty isn't just the best policy—it's the only way society can function.
Help Kids Learn What's True and False
Teach your child the basic difference between truth and falsehood. To demonstrate, tell a family story, and come up with a true ending and an outrageously false one ("And then a giant bird came and carried Grandma to the mall"). Then ask your child which he or she thinks is true. While it's normal for young children to have an active fantasy life and sometimes use make-believe to escape blame, correct them gently. You could say, "You’re saying that Mr. Nobody spilled the milk, but I think he had some help from you. I need you to help clean it up." By age 6 or 7, kids can be expected to take responsibility for their actions.
Don't Overreact to Mistakes
When parents are very punitive, kids may engage in blatant lying to escape punishment, even if what they’ve done is an accident. Children don’t want to think of themselves as bad, so they deny having done a bad thing. Explain that you will love them even if they do something bad, but that you expect them to be honest.