Tips to Help Teach Honesty

Teaching a child the importance of honesty early on will help establish positive and trusting relationships throughout their lives. Children need to be taught what is right and appropriate of their personal behavior and their relationships with others. By understanding what honesty means, children will be more inclined to tell what really happened in a situation, keep their promises, and learn that by being honest it will make them feel better about themselves.  

Here are 5 ways to teach kids honesty: 

1. Foster good communication

Your child is more likely to be truthful with you if you have a great relationship. You can strengthen that relationship by being approachable, not judgmental. Talk regularly. Make family dinner a routine part of your life. Schedule game nights, movie nights and other enjoyable activities to do with your children.

2. Lead by example

Lying can be convenient, but resorting to dishonesty when talking to your children is always a mistake. You’ll risk normalizing deceit for an impressionable young person. Worse yet, your kids will have good reason to distrust you after you promise that the flu shot doesn’t hurt a bit.

3. Encourage a culture of confession

If your child admits to wrongdoing, first be grateful for the honesty. While you must discipline him or her, the punishment shouldn’t be a deterrent for future confession. Hitting, shaming, and generally making your child feel bad will only inspire him to lie in the future. But instead of sending your children to their rooms to play video games, you can help them reflect on how to do better next time.

4. Nip it in the bud

Bad habits can start early and are often hard to shake, so it’s never too early to correct dishonest behavior in your child. And you can help kids avoid lying by giving them fewer opportunities to do so. For example, if you know who made the mess, don’t ask “Did you do this?” Confront him or her directly.

5. Use literature

There are many excellent fiction and non-fiction books that deal with ethical issues and honesty. Your librarian can help you find something age-appropriate to read and discuss with kids.

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Activities for Teaching Honesty

1. Tell Stories

  • One of the most effective ways to teach kids honesty is to read books to them that focus on this core value.
  • Read them classic fairy tales like "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" or the contemporary "Franklin Fibs" that focus on the consequences of lying.
  • Talk to your child about the activities that are transpiring in the story and ask them what they think will happen next.
  • Ask them if they would believe the character in the story after he has been shown to lie.
  • Tell them the moral of the story is to always be truthful or other people may not believe. 

2. Use Art

  • To instill the value of honesty in a child, use art.
  • Have her draw a picture of how it makes her feel when someone is honest and trustworthy. Give her an example, like when she dropped a dollar and a friend gave it back to her.
  • Have her draw another picture of how she would feel if the person had not been honest with her.
  • Your child will learn empathy in this way and recognize the positive aspects of honesty and the negative associations with being dishonest.

3. Play Games

  • Many times children will absorb a lesson more effectively if they feel like they are having fun playing games.
  • Play a game with your child where you make two true statements and one false statement and he or she has to choose which of the statements is the lie.
  • Next, allow her to make honest statements and tell a lie.
  • Repeat the process for several rounds.
  • Whoever guesses the most lies wins the game.
  • This process helps to teach a child what is the truth and what is a lie.
  • Purchase or make your own board game that focuses on honesty.
  • Make a series of index cards that include a hypothetical situation and ask your child how he would respond.
  • Talk about the consequences of his decision.
  • Pass the set of cards to the next person. Complete this activity on the weekend or during dinner each night.

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