Teaching Kids Honesty
Honesty is a virtue and it can be taught to children. Teaching the value of honesty to children is part of the development of moral and emotional strength. The quality of honesty helps to develop character and solid self-esteem. Here is what parents need to know about teaching honesty.
Tips for Parents
Lessons about honesty are learned differentially, depending on the child’s age. If you start the teaching of honesty early on, you can continue to support this virtue, as your children get older.
Explain to your child what honesty means at his/her developmental level. Use words that they can understand at their ages.
Teaching Honesty By Example
Teaching honesty by example is very effective. “Do-as-I-do” is a better motto than the proverbial, “Do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do.” Be honest with children at a level that they can understand. When deciding what to tell a child about a given situation, take into account the child’s age and maturity, and to what extent it is in the child’s best interest to know whatever it is you are considering telling him. Talking about personal adult issues with a child does not necessarily teach honesty, but may raise anxiety levels instead.
Teaching by example means that you conduct your own personal and business affairs in an honest and ethical manner. By doing so you will be demonstrating the self-respect that accompanies ethical behavior.
A "No-Shaming" Policy
Use a no-shaming policy when children mess up. Children will be more likely to revert to dishonest behaviors if they fear being shamed. Approval is a strong motivator. Non shaming disapproval can help to teach, but shame dissolves strength of character, and tends to elicit the behaviors you want to extinguish.
Respond rather than overreact when children lie or dissemble. It is natural for children to test. Your response will teach them to be honest, or to hide. Do not demand (or expect) perfection. Keep consequences for transgressions equal to the “crime,” and always as consistent as possible. Short consequences work best.
If dishonesty has become chronic at any age, consider the underlying root causes. The child may be acting out something that is troubling him. Seek help from a professional if appropriate. Social workers are trained to help in these situations.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Association of Social Workers.
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