Value: Being honest with others
“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”
As parents, we aim to guide our children through life’s challenges. In order for our little ones to succeed, they need to develop key life skills, including the importance of honesty.
It’s common for kids to tell little white lies, especially when avoiding punishment, so should you step in as soon as you notice these little fibs? After all, made-up (often far-fetched) stories can encourage imagination and creativity — so when is it time to pull the plug on dishonesty?
Krista Hillis, a psychology expert from Parenting Pod has the answers:
Why Your Little One Lies
If your child has told one too many lies, before you panic, know that this is not necessarily a bad thing. When children are very young, they do not understand the difference between fact and fiction. In fact, when children tell tales, this may be a sign of higher intelligence.
Believe it or not, preschoolers who lie often showcase a higher IQ, and tend to develop good social skills during adolescence. In terms of how you handle these lies, generally depends on the age of your child and the magnitude of the lie. With that being said, regardless of their age, it’s important to instill honesty in children.
When it comes to childhood development, understand that kids aren’t born with a ‘moral code’ — they need guidance. It’s up to you to show them the way. This is when family values come into play, as you help navigate your child within a confusing and highly social world.
By the time a child is around the age of five, up until the age of ten or so, they begin to understand the meaning of a lie. If they have been raised in a home that encourages truth-telling, they’ll likely do their best to comply with your parenting rules.
So, it’s clear that you have a role to play here, but how do you approach this concern?
How to Teach Your Child to Be Honest
Okay, so you want your child to be on the right side of the truth, helping them develop into socially responsible individual — but where do you start?
If you suspect that your child is lying to avoid punishment or is in fear that they’ll disappoint you, you personally need to take a step back and ask yourself, why? Have you created an environment where they feel safe to be themselves, even when it’s something you may not want to hear? You want your child to be able to confide in you, no matter what the case may be.
If, however, you feel that your home is loving, open, and supportive, there are actionable steps you can take, starting today. This will provide the foundation for your child to become an honest, reliable individual. If your child is prone to telling a fib or two, a little too often then you’d like, here’s where to start.
- Don’t put a label on your child, calling them a liar. Why? Because children are impressionable and if you tell them they’re something, in this case a ‘liar’ — they may begin to live up to that label. Instead, you need to let them know that you’re not fond of their behaviour, and that you don’t like lies.
- Give your child the opportunity to tell you why they lied, because in many cases, you’ll be able to see your child’s point-of-view. For example, your kid may have spilt some grape juice on the carpet. They’ll likely tell you that they lied to you to avoid getting into trouble, which provides you with the perfect opportunity to encourage honesty in the future.
- Praise, praise, and praise some more! If your child lied often in the past, yet came to you with the truth, make them feel special. After all, it’s not uncommon for children with low self-esteem to lie, in order to appear more impressive to you or their peers. Remember, criticising your child won’t get you anywhere fast — it’s actually quite counter-productive.
- Set a good example, because you know what they say, “monkey see, monkey do.” If you’re going to teach your child to be honest, you best be honest yourself. Children are very bright and incredibly receptive, so be a good role model. This is particularly the case when parents get their children to tell little white lies — it’s confusing for your child, as they try to determine why it’s okay for you to lie, but not them.
- Make it fun. When it comes to any one of life’s lessons, if you can make a game out of it, go for it. When children are learning in a fun, stimulating environment, they actually retain more knowledge. In comparison, when a lesson is taught that is boring, stressful, or confusing, these factors can interfere with a child’s ability to learn. Here are a few ideas to get you started, don’t be shy to get creative!
- Build two obstacle courses in the backyard. One should be easy, and the other should be hard (and designed to become progressively harder). After your child has finished both courses, ask them which was easier. Help them understand that the challenging course represents lies — and when you continue to lie, these fibs become harder and harder to get through.
- Download fun worksheets for your children to complete. Whether your child is reflecting on honesty by completing fun exercises or colouring ‘I am honest’ pages, drive home the importance of honesty by engaging your child.You can also create artwork together that can be hung in your child’s room, displaying messages, such as “Honest hearts produce honest actions.”
- Play ‘true or false’ with your child. Make them two signs, one that shows TRUE and one that shows FALSE. Make a list of scenarios and false facts (as well as honest facts), then develop a game out of it. This also teaches children to think for themselves, understanding that just because someone else says something, doesn’t always make it so.
Whether you’re teaching your child the importance of truth-telling or the power of a simple please and thank-you, always play with a purpose. As you encourage developmental milestones through immersive, hands-on learning experiences, you’ll provide your child with the tools they need to succeed — all while supporting their curiosity and thirst for learning.
About The Author
Krista Hillis BSc has an educational background in psychology and neuroscience. She loves writing and explaining complex scientific principles in simple terms that all parents can understand. Krista currently writes for Parenting Pod, you can learn more about Parenting Pod on Facebook.