Honesty is one of the building blocks of a functioning society. This value, as in most others, begins developing when a child is very young. Here are some tips to help you raise a truth-loving child:
BE HONEST: Mind you, you are being watched; your level of truthfulness will surely be one of the greatest determiners of your child’s honesty policy.When your son or daughter asks you a question you don’t feel prepared to respond to or are not at liberty to answer truthfully, either say you cannot answer the question at the moment or find a sensitive way to deliver as much of the truth as is appropriate. If you answer these types of questions with lies, your child will become distrustful of your explanations and think that telling the truth isn’t important. For example, if you say, “Grandpa has gone away for a little while.” (When indeed he has passed away,) you will be conveying that it is acceptable to lie when the truth is too confusing or uncomfortable to tell.
USE STORY TELLING: Expose your child to stories that praise the value of honesty. Look to the bible, story books, real life experiences, or create some colorful tales of your own (Just make sure you tell your child that those are made up!)
WHEN DEALING WITH CHEATING: If your child swipes some extra bonus cards while playing a board game, you may wish to laugh it off as “cute.” But then, stop playing – showing that there is no point to play a game when there is cheating. If your child is cheating because he is taking winning too seriously, acknowledge that you noticed how important it was for him to win and discuss why.
DON’T LABEL: Never call your child a cheater or a liar, for he may begin to believe this about himself.
CREATE AN ATMOSPHERE OF ACCEPTANCE: Children lie when they are afraid of punishment or feel that their truest feelings will not be accepted. If your child feels that his honesty will be received calmly without negative and/or explosive reactions, he will be comfortable to tell the truth.
DEFINE DREAMS FROM REALITY: Some children, especially preschoolers, are swayed into telling lies by the desire to engage in wishful thinking or imaginative storytelling. When a child does so, gently clarify to the child what he is doing. “You mean you wish you had super powers.”
PRAISE HONESTY: Catch your child at a time when he had to tell the truth even though it wasn’t easy. Show that you not only noticed, but are very impressed with his actions.
SHOW WHAT LYING CAN DO: Try to engage his sense of empathy by asking how he would feel if $10 was stolen from his wallet or if he was lied to. Then, explain to your child how one lie most often leads to another, entangling the liar in an exhausting journey. Here too, you can use the tool of storytelling. You should also emphasize how valuable it is to develop a reputation as an honest person.
TEACH THAT THERE IS A LIMIT TO HONESTY: While you want your child to be honest, you don’t want him to blurt things out that hurt people’s feelings. Teach him how to avoid telling truths that will hurt others by finding alternative positive, truthful things to say or by saying nothing at all.