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Helping Your Child Become a Responsible Citizen: Activities I (page 2)

— U.S. Department of Education
Updated on Feb 26, 2009

What to Do

    To learn the importance of honesty, children need to see that dishonest behavior can both hurt their reputations and cause others around them unhappiness.
  • Ask your child to think of an answer she might say to her friend Jesse that would be honest and yet not hurt her feelings. Is there something about Jesse's haircut that she does like?

  • Choose examples of sports figures, business leaders entertainers or politicians from the news who have been caught in dishonest acts and talk with your child about the consequences of those acts. Did "crime" really pay for them? Have their families benefited or suffered? How are they viewed by other people once their dishonesty is revealed?

  • Have your child find books in which characters struggle with being honest. Read and talk about the books with your child. (Also see Resources this booklet for suggested books about honesty.) 

Benefiting from manipulating or lying to others is dishonest and can destroy trust.

What to Do

    Parents should be careful to follow through on things they say to their children. Commitments and promises that may seem minor to a parent can be very important to a child. If parents cannot follow through, they need to explain why they cannot meet the commitment.
  • Tell or read to your child the fable "The Boy Who Cried 'Wolf." Point out that when the boy yells "wolf," he is lying as a way to get attention. Make sure your child understands that the boy paid for his lies: He had alarmed the villagers so many times, nobody came to his rescue when a real wolf showed up!

  • Ask your child if anyone has misled her with a lie. How did that make her feel? What did she do? Does she still like and trust the person who told the lie?

  • If you catch your child telling a lie, let him know that you do not approve and assign him some consequence—no watching of a favorite TV show, for example. But also ask him why he lied to you and reinforce the idea that he can always tell you the truth—regardless of how unpleasant it might be.

  • You especially need to model honesty with your older child. Keep talking with her, being honest and expecting honesty in return. Adolescence is a time when children are faced with more temptations and often less supervision. They need you as a positive role model. 

A gift that shows effort and attention can mean more than a gift from the store.

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