June 5, 2019

Teaching Your Child to be Honest

Liar, liar pants on fire.

Almost everybody has heard this little ditty before. The thought of one’s trousers bursting into flames upon telling a fib would seem more than enough to promote honesty. But alas, this simple yet graphic poem appears not to have the effect you might expect.

So, how do you effectively teach children to be honest?

Start teaching it early. That’s why honesty is one of the key values in Kiddie Academy’s Character Education curriculum.

Richard Peterson, Kiddie Academy’s Vice President of Education, defines honesty as, “the act of being true in your communication and the way you represent yourself to others. Adults should model honesty by telling children the truth and keeping their word. For example, if you say you’ll do something, do it. Being honest and having integrity sets the foundation of a trusting environment.”

Establishing that trusting environment, though, can sometimes be a challenge. It’s natural for children to experiment with the truth once they realize that adults can’t read their minds. If a parent accusingly confronts children and gets angry and punitive, a child might be afraid to tell the truth if they think it’s something the parent won’t want to hear. However, if you make it safe for them to share the truth, whether it’s good news or bad, they will more likely feel comfortable being honest.

Creating a trusting environment can give children confidence to tell the truth, regardless of the consequences. Peterson recalls, “Two things I always told my children as they were growing up were, if you find something which doesn’t belong to you, then it is not yours, so find the owner.  Second, always do the right thing; if you have to think about if it is right or wrong, then just don’t do it.”

Here are some things you can do to help your child learn about honesty:

Create a trusting environment – Remove anger from the equation. If you set the expectation that your child can tell you the truth – good or bad – without an angry reaction on your part, it helps encourage their honesty.

Model honesty – Your child looks to you for how to act. Be truthful in your actions and you’ll see the same from your child.

Honor truthfulness – Whether you like what you hear or not when your child tells the truth, thank them for their honesty.

Read inspiring stories – Spend time together reading stories that focus on characters being honest.

Here are three books about honesty recommended by our partners at PBS Kids for Parents that you can read with your child:

Penny and Her Marble – Kevin Henkes

The Empty Pot – Demi

The Boy Who Cried Bigfoot – Scott Magoon

Here’s more information about teaching your children to be honest:

Choosing Honesty: Tips for Raising Trustworthy Kids” – PBS Parents

Teaching Your Kids to be Honest” – Psychology Today

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