As parents we want to create an environment for our children that fosters trust and honesty. I remember when I was a child there were several reasons I would lie to my parents. Usually due to fear of discipline.
Lying is an easy habit our kids can get into, starting at a young age, we should do what we can to steer their habits to truthfulness without fear.
How do we teach truthfulness and the importance of honesty?
Discuss Telling the Truth Vs. Lying
It’s important for your kids to understand what the truth is versus what a lie is. Discuss scenarios about lies. It can be simple as activities where you name a color wrong. The blue cup is not orange that is a lie. If they do not understand the difference and what lying is they cannot understand if they are lying in the first place.
Reward the Truth
When your child tells the truth, reward the behavior. This is especially important when they may have done something they were not supposed to. Rather than becoming frustrated with the situation, calmly speak to your child about what happened, what was wrong, what is acceptable behavior, and reward them for not lying. One of the most common reasons a child would lie is fear of consequences and discipline for whatever happened. If they feel like you can be calm and collected even though they made a mistake they’re more likely to be honest.
Be truthful to them and anyone around when they’re watching. Model the same honesty you expect of them. Be truthful to them for mistakes you make or when situations happen so they feel like they can trust your word.
Don’t Put Them to the Test
Do not ask questions that give them the chance to lie. If you know they did something, don’t ask. When you ask a question like “did you spill the juice?” you can be setting them up for the chance to lie, thinking perhaps they can get out of it. Keep them focused on the issue by giving a statement. “Looks like you spilled the juice, lets clean it up.”
When your child does lie, give consequences for not being truthful. Everyone makes a mistake and when you do catch your child in a lie make sure you give appropriate discipline. You do not want to reward the behavior but make sure they understand lying has a negative consequence.
Follow Through on Promises
Follow through on your own promises so your children feel that they can trust your word. Do not give promises if you do not know you can follow through with them.
Find Honest Relationships
Help your children understand the importance of honesty in friendships and other relationships. It’s important to have honesty for a trusting relationship. Teach them how to be honest at appropriate times in a friendship, how honesty can be harmful to feelings, and remaining calm when met with honesty can help build trust. Expressing your feelings to friends and family is important but they should not be met with defensiveness or anger but rather understanding and a listening ear. Teach your child that if you want that response in a friend to their honesty they must also give that response to others being honest with them.
Teach Your Child Self Love
Helping your child accept and love themselves for who they are helps them not want to lie. Accepting yourself helps you live truthfully. As a child this can be simply accepting and understanding challenges such as getting a ‘C’ in Math and Math just isn’t their forte. No need to lie over a grade when you and they are accepting of the work they did and the ability they have.
When your children are young it is great to utilize stories to teach honesty and help them understand how others feel about lying. Here are some great children’s books on honesty.