Child Development – Fostering / Instilling Honesty in our Children

Originally posted January 2, 2011

I just returned from a waiting room and overheard a parent on her cell phone speaking to her child along with a facilitator from her child’s school.  The conversation went on at least 20 minutes.  The parent asked her child where he or she got the “IPOD” from? I assume from observing the conversation, that the child must have stated that it was given to them, because the parent said, “why would somebody just give you an IPOD?” The parent then transferred her conversation to the school representative, who must have stated that it wasstolen from a fellow student. The parent then went back and forth with both parties, while arguing with the child who had changed stories at least twice during the conversation, based on the questions posed to them by the parent; agitated, the parent told the child that she would deal with them at home, and further told the school provider that there must have been a mistake because her child wouldn’t lie…

My thought today is: How can parents foster honesty in children?

From an early age, our children learn to “bend” the truth, for what ever reason; be it to avoid punishment, or simply out of habit.  Suffice it to say that all children will at some point learn dishonesty. Whether it is learned on their own or through watching others.

I believe as parents, we should stay in tune with our children and learn to recognize the signs, and instinctively take the appropriate actions to correct this behavior, before it gets out of hand.  As with the parent I observed today, because at this point (when our children are young pre-teens or young adults), this habit is well-formed and the activity that the lie is covering up, becomes more serious. Needless to say the punishment will be considerably more severe.

Do’s and Don’ts

– When a 5 year old lies to a parent, it is more than likely because they are afraid of punishment or they are afraid of disappointing us. However, it is not too early to promote truth telling.  We need to first create an atmosphere where the child feels safe telling the truth.

– Don’t put labels on your kids by calling them a liar. Just let them know that not telling the truth is wrong.  You can say something like, “that doesn’t sound like the truth to me…” It will give them a chance to explain.  At times, they could more than likely have a change of heart and tell the truth.

– Don’t ask questions when you already know the answer, like “did you clean your room?” by doing this, you will be inviting them to tell a lie. Instead say, “I see you haven’t cleaned your room yet…” This will let them know that you are paying attention to everything and will in turn promote them to always do the right thing, including telling you the truth.  You can also say, you know you won’t get into trouble with me by telling the truth..afterwards praise the for telling the truth.

Lastly, always try to set a good example, your child is watching you.

As always I would love to know your thoughts…

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