How to Teach Your Kids to Be Honest
My husband is super honest. From the little things that don’t seem like they really matter, to the big things that obviously do matter, he’s honest through and through. Of course, I want my children to be honest too. So how can I help make that happen? The first step is setting a good example. Yes, this means not getting the kids’ meal even though my kids can pass for 10 and under. It means telling the truth—and making a point of letting them know I’m choosing to be honest. That’s just the beginning of how to teach kids to be honest. Here’s the rest.
Reward the Truth.
As parents, we are often quick to scold. Sometimes we aren’t always so quick to praise. Reward honesty with loads of praise and hugs. It will build self-confidence and reinforce the positive behavior. Plus, a child can never get too much love.
The Art of “Spin.”
The brutal truth should not always be spoken. We have all heard the saying, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” One need not lie and say Aunt Becky is skinny when asked how she looks. Just don’t say anything. Or find something else about Aunt Becky that is positive. “That sure is a colorful shirt.” Spin. People make a lot of money doing it. Spin works two ways, but when done for good, it’s a wonderful tool to learn.
The Hard Truth.
Correct morals and purity of spirit always trump protecting the feelings of someone who is doing wrong. Wrong is always wrong. For instance, your son’s best friend is cheating on tests and your son is fully aware. He has a duty to go to his friend and advise him to stop. He’s hurting himself and cheating the others who have honestly studied. If he refuses, then your son would have to tell the teacher about what is going on. That is called the hard truth. Nobody wants to be put in that position. Yet, life constantly puts us in these types of situations. As adults, we are faced with all kinds of scams, rampant adultery, and general dishonesty. Teach your children to stand strong on the side of righteousness.
The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree.
As is always the case, you are the role model. You do not want your child to hear you telling a lie or to see you perform a dishonest act. Yes, you could enter the National Park for free since there is no attendant. But the sign says $5 dollars. Put your money in the slot and move along. Yes, it would make your life easier if Grandma didn’t know you were in town this time. But, your child is listening to you on the phone telling her you don’t know when you’ll be there again. Are these the traits you want to teach your children? Clean up your act. Those little eyes and ears are always open.
Do Not Lead the Witness.
Though it’s tempting to test them, try to avoid asking questions that give your child a chance to not be honest. You saw your daughter spill red juice on the couch. No need to ask, “Did you just spill your juice on the couch?” This leads her to believe she might have a way out and could possibly pass blame elsewhere. Just tell her to clean it up. She’ll have enough opportunities to tell the truth.
Truth or Consequences.
We all sin. Even children do. They will eventually lie to you and you will eventually catch them. It’s important that there be consequences for their actions. Appropriate discipline should be carried out and followed through. Make it “so not worth it” to lie.
Catching your child being dishonest is a good time to break out your teacher hat. Help him correct the mistake. Talk about how he could have responded or reacted differently. An example would be that your son came home with an Evan Longoria rookie card. He obtained it by trading his friend two Pat Burrell cards. Obviously, his friend knows nothing about baseball or really likes Pat Burrell. Either way, he got swindled. Explain to your son that trades should include fair value on both sides. Preying on the unaware is not a desirable character trait. Return the card and work out a fair deal.
Your Word is Gold.
The most important character trait a person can possess is keeping and following through on promises made. This one thing alone will take a person very far in life. To be trusted and deemed honorable is a crown even a king would envy. Teach your children to be people who consider their word gold. When they give it, they don’t break it. It is much harder than it sounds. Fool’s gold is easily found. The real thing takes a lot of digging. Gold is highly sought after and is extremely valuable. Just the kind of person you want your child to be.
What’s Yours is Yours.
Possessions can create all sorts of problems. The best policy is to teach a child early on that what they have belongs to them. What other people have belongs to that person. It is not okay to borrow a game and never return it. It’s awesome to share, but the item must always be returned. We all have that neighbor who borrows our trimmer and never brings it back. You don’t want your son to be that guy. It might sound harmless, but honesty does not take days off. Value your own possessions and keep your hands off your neighbors’.
Look for Honest Friends.
Show me your friends and I will show you your future. If your child’s friends lie and cheat, so will they. But if your child’s friends are upstanding and honest, your son or daughter will be that much better off. Keep an ear out for any of your children’s friends who lie. They’re a terrible example for your children.
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Nancy Jergins has written about relationship and family issues for more than 15 years, and does her best to enlighten and encourage others with her words.