Teaching children the value of honesty can be a challenge. It is one of the most important character traits, but it often doesn’t come without parental modeling and practice. There are a variety of reasons that lying may occur with young children. They want approval and they want to make you happy. Without realizing it, children may be saying things that are not fully true, in order to gain approval. Children may lie because they misinterpret something that you say or ask them to do. Children’s brains do not function the same way an adult brain does, that’s why it is important to grant them some leeway and practice honesty with them. Here are a few ways to practice honesty with your children:
- Acknowledge and Appreciate Honesty: Even if it isn’t a truth you want to hear, or it was hard earned, express encouragement. Tell them that you appreciate their truthfulness and let them know you understand how difficult it may have been for them to tell you the truth. The more praise they receive from telling a truth, the more likely they will be to continue on an honest path.
- Celebrate Mistakes: Mistakes are inevitable, and they can be frustrating. Watch the way that you react to mistakes and make the most of them. Use them as a teachable moment while keeping your emotions in check. When your children see that we can make mistakes beautiful and learn from them, it will be easier for them to be honest in the future.
- Set A Good Example: Telling white lies can become second nature, whether we realize it or not. Children notice things and hear things that you may not realize they are noticing and processing. If you bring awareness to your white lies and try to be more honest yourself, they will see that and model your behavior.
- Avoid Asking Why: It is an easy question to ask and of course you want to know the motivation, but children do not process information the same way that adults do. When you ask a child why they hit or why they lied about it, it is setting them up to tell you an excuse. Hold your child accountable by asking simple questions to get to the answer and following up with questions that help them realize the why without using it as an excuse. Such as, “What were you feeling?” “How did it make you feel when that happened?” This will bring awareness to their emotions and equip them to better deal with those emotions in the future.
The road to raising an honest child may be a long and bumpy one. Remember to set a good example, appreciate their honesty, ask questions that help them work through any dishonesty, and use their mistakes as a teachable moment. Talk with them often about honesty. Honesty is part of our CORE Values curriculum at AppleTree & Gilden Woods. It is important to start at an early age to lay the groundwork, and continue to reinforce the behavior throughout their childhood and adolescence.