How to encourage honesty in your kids

Lying may be easier than telling the truth (it's true, here are the facts), but there are ways that you can encourage your child to tell the truth.

Here's how:

  • Don’t set an example of lying. The sad truth is that our children often learn to lie by observing us. For example, when we lie to be polite (telling your friend her cake tastes divine and then pulling a face behind her back – but in front of your child). This is in fact teaching your child that honesty creates conflict and by lying you can avoid this uncomfortable situation.
  • When your child is "covering up" for a friend, don’t force them to give you a name. They can still tell you the truth about a situation without getting their friend into trouble. For example, "One of the boys at school broke a window and I saw who it was, but I can’t say his name" is better than "I don't know anything about a broken window, Mom."
  • Children often lie to get out of trouble. They will deny doing something naughty so that they don’t get punished. Parents then make the mistake of punishing the child for the transgression, but add no repercussions for the lie – so in the child’s mind, the lie didn’t cost him a thing. When you find out your child did something wrong and then lied about it, give punishment for the deed and then deal with the lying separately (preferably not through punishment). You could, for example, say that you were very disappointed that he/she lied and that if you had been told the truth from the beginning that you would have been more lenient.
  • Constantly threatening punishment for lying only makes children that much more vigilant at coming up with a good, believable lie.
  • The opposite end of that spectrum (removing punishment entirely) also doesn’t work. For example, if your child denied stealing something, saying, "I won’t be upset if you stole the biscuit" still makes the child hesitant to tell the truth, simply because they know you really don’t like the fact that he lied (and stole) and all your child wants is to make you happy. They want to know how to get in your good books again. The better alternative is to say:
          - "If you stole the biscuit I won’t be upset..." (encouragement)
          - "...but it does mean that you can’t have another one later..." (punishment)
          - "And if you tell the truth I will be really happy."  (reward for honesty)
  • Watch your tone – if you have the sound of disapproval in your voice when you ask your child if they did something, they will immediately try to avoid upsetting you. Rather calm down first, and approach your child in a gentle manner.
  • Teach your children the value of honesty, not just that lying is wrong.
  • Remember: Punish the transgression, show disappointment with any lying and reward honesty.
Do you encourage your children to tell the truth? How? Share with us below.

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