Children and Honesty
Make it easy for children to tell the truth and they’ll be less likely to lie. At the age of 4 or 5, children understand the difference between truth and lies. Sometimes they want so much to please you that they have a hard time admitting to a mistake or accident. Try the following ideas from the Parent Center, “The Honest Child: How To Teach Honesty,” to set the scene for truthfulness in your home.
Avoid labeling your child. When children lie, don’t call them liars. Explain that you don’t like lies, but you still love your children. And, you want to give them the chance to tell the truth and explain why they lied.
If you know the answer, don’t ask the question. If you’re sure that your child broke the lamp, don’t ask the question and give him/her the chance to lie. Instead, state: I see your lamp is broken, what can you do to help fix it?
Find out why your child is lying. The reason behind a lie really lets you understand your child’s needs or fears. Children may lie because they’re afraid of the consequences, or they really want something and think it’s only fair that they have it now.
Praise honesty. Let your child know you value and appreciate the truth.
Stay cool. Anger, when you catch your child in a lie, only makes him/her more anxious to do anything, including lying, to avoid your anger the next time. Lying is a serious offense, but reacting rationally will help teach your child the right thing to do.
Set the right example. Teach honesty by being honest. If your child hears you make an untruthful excuse to get off the phone or sees you keep the extra $10 if the grocery clerk makes a mistake, then he/she thinks it’s not always necessary to be honest.
- Liar, Liar from Raising Kids provides tips on encouraging openness and recognizing and rewarding honesty.
- The Honest Child: How to Teach Honesty from the Parent Center helps you understand about young children and honesty.
- Teaching Honesty and Responsibility to Your Child on Dummies.com provides good tips on modeling honesty and the “little white lie.”
- Family Night Lessons: Honesty and Trust from Valuesparenting.com helps you determine if your child knows the difference between the truth and a lie.
Reprinted with the permission of the Department of Health and Human Services.