Children are born honest, but as they grow up, they are exposed to a world of deceit, lies and dishonesty. How can parents educate their children about honesty and help them to always speak the truth?
Here are some ideas to help you out.
1. Educate them in the art of “Spin”
Truth needs to be tempered with compassion. Brutal truths should not be spoken, but your children do not have to lie to cover the truth. The saying “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” is the greatest mantra that you can teach your children. Teach them to find something positive to say if the truth is too brutal. For example, if Uncle Terence is wearing a nice, colourful shirt that is showing off his big belly, teach the children to say that “Uncle Terrene’s shirt is really nice!” instead of “Uncle Terrene is so fat!”. Both statements are the truth, but one is laced with compassion while the other is not. This is the art of “Spin” and it is a useful way to teach both honesty and compassion.
2. Stand by the hard truth
Older children who are in school are likely to see dishonest acts done by their friends. When your child confided in you that his best friend scored an A in a recent examination because he cheated, encourage your child to speak with his friend about it. If his friend persisted in cheating further, your child would have to tell the teacher about it. Teach your child to stand by the hard truth because he will only get more of such situations when he grows up.
3. Be a role model
Children mirror what their parents do, so this is one of the most important things that you can do to educate your child about honesty. You are the best person to show them the right way forward. Therefore, do not let your child hear a lie from you, or to see in a dishonest act. Do not commit the mistake of having a double standard. It will only backfire later on.
4. Teach the rights of possession
As a child, possession is always a matter of issue. It can create a lot of problems that extend to the parents. Therefore, it is easier to teach your child early on that what he has belongs to him, and what he doesn’t have, is not his to keep. Distinguish between sharing and stealing. Teach him to share his toys with his friends, but these toys must be returned after an agreed period is over. Encourage him to ask for the toys back if they are not returned. Similarly, enforce the same principle for your child to return toys that he has borrowed from others.
5. Keep your promises
The best way to teach your child about honesty is to keep your own promises. If you have promised your child that you will take a day off and bring them to the Zoo, do it! Putting off the promise and eventually not following through is the surest way to show your child that it is ok to promise and forget it. It also hurt his feelings and show him that you are not trustworthy. By showing that you keep your word, your child learns to keep his words as well. That is a habit that can bring him very far in life.
6. Have memorable consequences for lying
Lastly, it is always a good idea to plan ahead for the consequences that your child will face when he lies to you. Everyone will eventually lie, even if you have taught your child well. When you catch him lying to you, it is important to help them remember why they should not do it again. Appropriate discipline should be carried out and followed through. Make it a memorable one so that he knows it is not worth it to lie.