When my kids were two, watching them attempt to cover their tracks, to fib their way out of trouble, was almost comical. But let me tell you—when they’re 10, it’s far less adorable. The lies and their ramifications grow with the child. And without nipping dishonesty in the bud early, you may wind up with teens so accustomed to bending the truth that they have a hard time breaking the habit.
1. Don’t overlook a child’s lie, even if you think it’s funny.
There’s a great temptation to overlook a preschooler’s dishonesty because we’re a little charmed or amused by it. But overlooking even those lies lays a foundation that will be hard to undo down the road. Save yourself the extra work by catching little tykes’ little lies and correcting them immediately.
2. Watch the back door.
Dishonesty in our children doesn’t often come barreling through the front door with a big whopper of a lie. It starts small with fudging the facts or omitting key information. But it’s intentionally deceptive—and children know it. When you’re talking with your children, listen intently. That’s how you’ll pick up on the tell-tale signs of a misleading story. When you see them do it, blow the whistle and correct the habit.
3. Practice what you preach.
The only way to teach a life of honesty and integrity is to live one in front of your children. They hear more than you think they do, every word you say on the phone or to your spouse. They’re as able to spot deception as you are. If your children find you acting as if your dishonesty is OK, they’ll do the same. So before you say, “tell them I’m not home,” remember who’s listening.
The only way to teach a life of honesty and integrity is to live one in front of your children.
4. Explain the impact lying has on relationships.
I believe God’s laws always have our best interests at heart. But honesty isn’t just important because it’s the officially-sanctioned right thing to do. It’s important because good relationships are built on trust and trust can’t exist without honesty. If you catch your child lying on Monday, how can you trust him or her on Tuesday? Help your children understand the long-term consequences of dishonesty by letting them suffer some of those consequences now.
5. Stop a lie when you see one coming.
Sometimes, your child will be tempted to play with the facts, like when they’re explaining their actions or faced with the possibility of being disciplined. Before you even ask for the explanation, remind your child that honesty is the standard in your home and that he or she will create a bigger problem by lying.
6. Don’t let the details dictate whether honesty is important.
Sometimes we’re tempted to overlook dishonesty in our children if a lie doesn’t involve something of obvious importance. But a total commitment to honesty in all things only comes about when there are no small lies. Take the time to correct your child, even when the deception seems immaterial.
How do you keep your kids honest?