It is sad to see how dishonesty, lies, and deception are slowly being accepted as normal human traits and a way of life. The more we want to make ourselves comfortable around these unnatural traits, the more we experience a yearning for truth. honesty and authenticity. If you are a regular on this site you will understand that we are about Raising Boys to be Incredible Men and part of that takes knowing ‘How to teach Kids Honesty’
What is Honesty & Why Does it Matter?
According to Wikipedia- Honesty is a facet of moral character that connotes positive and virtuous attributes such as integrity, truthfulness, straightforwardness, including straightforwardness of conduct, along with the absence of lying, cheating, theft, etc. Honesty also involves being trustworthy, loyal, fair, and sincere.
Because we are talking about kids I would have loved to reduce the whole discussion to ‘ teaching kids not to lie’ because lying is more common among kids but as we see from the above definition lying is just a tiny aspect of what we are dealing with.
Why Does it Matter? You might be asking.
1. Honesty leads to a Happy, Free & Fulfilled Life
We have been created for truth. We are our best when we are truthful. Thus any form of dishonesty steals part of us, leaving a void that nothing can fill but the truth. Truth puts us in alignment with who we are and with our creator resulting in a free and fulfilled life Hence the scripture says ‘ The Truth Shall Set You Free’ .
2. Stress less Life – Most stress is caused by the pressure to maintain a certain image. Being honest takes off the maintenance pressure because you can simply be yourself, you don’t have to remember what you said yesterday. Honest people live a less anxious life, they have no false image to uphold or no lie to guard.
3. Quality Friendships/Relationships – Let’s face it nobody will intentionally befriend a pathological liar, we all seek the security that comes with trustworthiness in friendships and relationships. It’s a pain to relate with someone you cannot trust. And what we are saying here is Your child should not be the untrustworthy party in his future relationships.
4. Good Health – Several studies have been conducted by different experts and institutions. The studies conclude that ‘Telling the truth when tempted to lie can significantly improve a person’s mental and physical health.
So How can we teach our kids to be Honest?
1. Model It
There is no way around this one, dishonest parents cannot raise an honest kid. Remember an apple tree can not produce oranges.
Our kids need to see us being honest both in words and actions. If there is a knock at the door you cant pull the tell him I am not here stunt with the child and expect him to behave differently. You cannot get away with that extra dollar change that the cashier gave to you by mistake. Kids are always watching and they learn best from observation than from lecturing.
2. Reward the Truth
The child especially at the beginning might still be entangled in dishonesty and all forms of lies, but be on the lookout and catch them during that moment when they are fully honest, and make it a big deal. appreciate them, tell them specifically what you liked about how they handled whatever situation, for example, wow ‘I am proud of what I just saw, my son you were cornered to lie, actually lying was an easy way out but you pulled strength from within and spoke the truth, I respect you for that, it gives me peace of mind to know that I can trust you.’
Tell me if next time, he would choose to easily settle for a quick lie fix.
3. Teach Him to be Authentic
Authentic Manhood should be a goal and an ideal for every parent having a boy child under their care. We should teach our kids that it is not just about telling the truth to others but it is about being truthful to ourselves, it is about being real. Teach your kid to be aware of the signs of a counterfeit, fake life, and to do his best to be true and real. Storylines from books or movies can help you to have an open discussion about this crucial subject. For more on grooming boys to be authentic men check this article here
4. Teach him that lies have consequences
If lying is wrong, bad, and unacceptable then there must be consequences for such behaviors. The objective of the consequence shouldn’t be to punish or condemn but it should be to teach and empower. As an example, my son recently lied to me about what he was watching on You tube, it was funny because he had no reason to lie, he was not watching anything bad at all.
My response to the situation
I firstly wanted to understand Why did he lie and his reason /excuse was he didn’t want me to know what he was learning then, he wanted to later surprise me with what he was learning. ( You might be saying that is a pure white lie, that is the discussion for another day) But for the fact that he looked at me in the face and told me he is watching something different was a big No. I sat down with him, after I cool down off course, expressed my disappointment, and together agreed on a consequence which was a 7-day off-screen challenge, prescribed a book on honesty to read, and asked for a summary of the book by the end of seven days, failure to submit by the end of seven days will result in the extension of the challenge
My part to support him was to read or at least glance through the book, and sit with him four times within seven days to discuss what we were learning. It was a beautiful learning experience that strengthened our bond. It was great to see some lightbulb moments during our discussions. I learned the 5R’s to fair and effective consequence from the Positive Parenting Solutions Course by Amy McCready. You can access the course here
4. Honor Your Word
It is as simple as that, say what you mean and do what you say, you can’t have it any other way if you want to raise authentic men of integrity. Don’t make promises if you are not intending to keep them, the likes of I will take you out later for ice cream and later you don’t show up, such will not cut it, such are seeds of dishonesty and lack of integrity. And because they are seeds you will sadly soon reap.
Yes, there are times when you won’t be able to fulfill what you promised, and if it’s not a habit your child will understand. Just make it your mission to be a man or woman of your word to them.
5. Don’t Give Him the Reason to Lie
The way you respond to the hard truth especially about the mistakes that he could have easily concealed, is very important. It will determine if going forward he can trust you with the ugly truth. Learn to respond gracefully but firm. For more insights on that check How to Stop Yelling at My kids.
It takes courage to be honest and authentic, maybe amongst other lessons we should teach is the lesson on courage. But whatever it takes, let parents understand that raising honest kids comes with a price. The price of consciousness and discipline on your side as a parent, you need to watch what you do and say. You need to be careful about not planting unwanted seeds. We need to be consistent in rewarding honest behavior and not compromising on consequences for bad behavior If we get it right as parents 50% or more of the battle is won
Would love to know your thoughts in the comment section below. How are you dealing with dishonesty in your home and how did your parents deal with it?