Although my husband and I value honesty and have taught our children the importance of being truth tellers, we have struggled lately with two of our children that tend to lie. The lies most often come when our kids know they’ve done something wrong and want to avoid punishment.
We talk with our children often about the importance of trust and how hard it is to rebuild trust once it is broken. We encourage honesty in our everyday words and actions and have told the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” many times.
Here are a few ideas for teaching honesty to kids. My husband and I will be trying these as we continue to teach our children the value of honesty. I hope these tips are helpful to you as well.
Model honesty. If we expect honesty from our children, it’s important to be truth tellers ourselves. Children often ask difficult questions. It is important to offer (age appropriate) truthful answers to create an environment of openness and honesty. Even seemingly harmless “little white lies,” exaggerating or stretching the truth are recognized by children and set the stage for dishonesty in your home.
Avoid labels. When a child lies, don’t use labels such as “You’re such a liar” or “You always lie.” Labels can become self-fulfilling prophecies.
Avoid questions when you already know the truth. If your child tends to lie, asking questions can be a setup for more lying. If you already know the truth about a situation, confront your child about the misdeed rather than asking questions.
Praise truth telling. Telling the truth can often be hard especially if a child expects that punishment will follow. When your child is honest, encourage them with praise for their truthfulness.
Confront lying. Children need to know that lies don’t work. When you catch your child in a lie, calmly confront them with the truth and hold your child accountable for their behavior.