There are many values that are important to teach our children, values that will help them grow and develop into well-rounded adults. These values include everything from empathy and kindness to perseverance and patience. Teaching your children to behave properly, treat others with respect, and even to have self-confidence can be challenging, but it is important.
One other value that is important to teach your kids is honesty. Being honest can be hard, especially at a young age. But helping your child understand the importance of being honest can help them to grow to be honest teens and adults. Children are able to tell the difference between lying and telling the truth, but whether they choose to tell the truth depends on what you to help them realize the importance of honesty.
We have talked a lot about helping your children learn these important values in life and at Resurrection Christian School, we help to encourage our students to live by these values. While we can help to make your students well-rounded people, it is your job as their parents to teach them the importance of being empathetic, kind, patient, and honest.
In this blog, we will help by giving you tips to teaching your children and teens honesty. Keep reading to learn more and help your kids learn an important life lesson.
Teaching Your Kiddos
Before your children reach their teen years, establishing a sense of honesty can help them to stay on the right track. Honesty should become part of your child’s moral compass, allowing them to understand that telling the truth is the right thing to do.
Children lie for many reasons, whether they are scared of the consequences, afraid to disappoint their parents, or simply know what they did was wrong. But what you need to establish, is a safe place to tell the truth. If they feel worse for telling the truth, it is not likely that they will do it often.
Calling your child a liar is not something that will help them become more honest. Kids lie for a reason and if you throw a label on that, they may begin to live up to that label. Both babycenter and sheknows mention that calling your child a liar will only make teaching your child about honesty more difficult. Instead, explain to your children that your don’t like lies but that doesn’t change the way you feel about your child.
The babycenter article suggests saying something that give your child a chance to explain why they lied. Try saying, “I don’t like lying, but sometimes we lie because we are afraid we did something wrong.” This will allow your kid to understand that lie is bad, but not make them feel so guilty for their little lie. This gives them a chance to explain to you why they lied and tell you the truth. Letting your child know that telling the truth is the right thing to do, even if what they did was bad, they will begin to develop a sense of honesty.
Don’t Give Them Opportunities
Some things that parents do or ask, give children the opportunity to lie. Asking if your child finished their homework as they are running out the door to play with their friends, is a great example. They are not going to tell you that they haven’t finished and risk not being able to play with their buddies. Instead, ask them to show you their homework when they finish and then they can head outside to play. If they know you are expecting to check up with them and make sure their work is all done, they will not have a chance to lie and they know it. Be sure to check up with them though, if you say it and don’t do it, they will use that knowledge next time to lie and head outside early.
If you set your child up to tell the truth, they will be more likely to tell the truth since you are making it hard for them to lie. While real life situations won’t be as simple to know the right answer, they will have practice telling the truth which will help them to know what to do in situations that aren’t set up for them.
Don’t Let Lies Slide
When your child lies to you, there must be consequences. If you simply say don’t lie and move on, they will not see the negative consequences that come with a lie. But keep in mind that you don’t want your children to feel afraid of the consequences. Like we said before, your child should feel safe about telling the truth, they should know that they will be in less trouble for telling the truth than the were for the lie.
When your child tells the truth, praise them. Thank them for being honest with you and ask them why they lied. Knowing their motive will help you to understand what the problem was and why they were scared to tell you the truth. If they lied about getting a bad grade on a homework assignment because they were scared you would be disappointed, you can let them know that if they ever need help on homework they should let you know so you can help them. If you get mad about the grade and raise your voice at them, they will be more likely to lie the next time as well.
While some punishments may be too harsh and cause your kids to fear telling the truth after they lie, one thing you can do is to help them set it straight. If they did something wrong and lied about it, tell them that they have to make it right. If they took a toy from their friend’s house without their friend knowing, take them to return it to their house and apologize for taking it. Their friend will be happy to get their toy back but may be mad at your child. Tell your child that it was worth telling the truth because the friend was happy that their toy was returned to them, even if they are upset with your child. Tell them you are proud that they chose to tell the truth, it will make them feel better as well.
Teach About White Lies
Teaching your child the difference between lying and little white lies may be challenging, but it is also important. You want your child to be polite rather than blurt something out that may hurt someone’s feelings. Rather than teaching them that it is okay to lie sometimes, teach them to find something nice to say instead of saying a truth that may be hurtful. Teach them the famous saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” This will help you kids either find something else positive and kind to say, or they will keep their hurtful truth to themselves. This is an easy way to teach your child about white lies without calling them lies and keep your kid honest.
Reminding Your Teens
Even if you teach your younger children to be honest, as they grow into teenagers, they will have more to lie about and more serious things to lie about. Whether your child is usually good at telling the truth or they are known to tell a lie, they will need a reminder about why telling the truth is important.
Lead By Example
One way you can remind your teen that being honest is important is to be honest yourself. If you mess up don’t hide it from your kids or spouse. Tell them the truth and let them know that you made a mistake or did something that they may not be happy with. If it easy to lie, but if you want your children to adopt honesty, you must be honest.
When your teens are around, be sure to model honesty. They will be watching and pick up on your lies, even the little ones. So be sure to stay honest and show them that even if it is hard to tell the truth, it is the right thing to do. This includes what you tell them about lying. If you tell them they won’t get in trouble for telling the truth, don’t punish them when they do.
Teens will often test their parents to see how they react when they tell them the truth. According to an article from the Washington Post, staying calm, curious, and not overreacting can help encourage your teens to tell the truth. If they are honest about their terrible test grade and you lose your temper, they are less likely to be honest about something else that may be more serious. They are gauging your reaction, so try not to react negatively.
Make Punishments Fair
Hopefully your teen is not lying about anything too serious, but if they are the punishment may need to be more serious as well. But for small lies, keep the consequences similar and fair. If they lied about failing a test, take their phone away for the night while they focus on their homework. Fair punishments will help them realize it was wrong to lie but not make them fearful of telling the truth.
Talk It Out
Talking with your teen is effective. They are old enough to have a conversation so show them that you view them as a young adult. Even if it turns into an argument, try to figure out why they have started lying so much, ask how you can help, and communicate why you are upset that they are lying. A conversation may be better than any other tactics.
Teaching your child and teen honesty is important and can help them develop into an adult with values. Use these tips to help teach the importance of honesty and don’t forget to set a good example. At RCS, we help our student learn these important values and more. Take a tour and contact us for more info!