People want children to grow up always telling the truth. The truth is…we can teach children honesty from a young age.
Begin setting an early precedent that honesty is a strong value your family believes in. Stress that honesty among family members builds trust. With trust, families can work and depend on each other when it is needed the most.
Emphasis should be placed on honesty, over punishment. Show them that there is a benefit for being honest. Reward honesty with praise and hugs.
Be a role model…be honest first. People can’t expect children to be honest when parents aren’t modeling the correct behavior in the first place. This includes those times when children ask the awkward questions — be direct and age-appropriate in your response. Start by keeping promises, which teaches them that your word is sacred.
Don’t set your children up to be dishonest. Though it’s tempting to test them, try to avoid asking questions that give your child a chance to not be honest. If you see them spill or break something, avoid asking them if they did it; simply help them with the situation and move on.
Look for opportunities to acknowledge when they have told the truth, especially in situations where it might have been easier for them to lie.
When your child tells you the truth about something they’ve done, take a moment to show that you appreciate their honesty by saying, “I’m really glad you told me the truth.”
Teach your children that there is always something nice we can say about someone.
While this may be hard, if a child is caught in a lie, do not overreact. The more explosive you are, the more frightened your child will be and the more likely they will lie. Simply remain calm and stick to the facts.
From the Iowa Family Dinner Project, here are some conversation starters that will help your family navigate honesty.
• Who do you trust the most and why?
• How do you know when you can trust another person?
• If a friend asked you to keep a secret you didn’t feel comfortable with, what would you do?
• Is it okay to ever tell a white lie?
• Has someone ever asked you to do something you knew was wrong? What did you do?
• Has someone ever lied to you and how did it feel?
Create an environment that is safe, where everyone is truthful. As your children learn to deal with and understand emotions, they will begin to understand that sometimes being honest can hurt someone’s feelings, but being truthful can be helpful in the long-run.
Carrie Kube is a Director for the Iowa River Valley Early Childhood Area Board.