Ken and Denise Hawk
Ken and Denise Hawk and their five children are known throughout their community as "Team Hawk." They specialize in cultivating relationships with each other and the world to unleash the wonder found in daily family living. Send them a question at teamhawk@sbnr.org

Teaching Honesty To Kids

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Q: How do I teach my child to be honest? She’s just three but already I find her telling lies. We try to reward the truth, but it doesn’t seem to work.

Teaching Honesty To Kids

Deception is a natural developmental stage that youngsters progress through. It’s the time they discover they can actually change their reality after it happens. It’s a very handy skill [which is why grown ups use it]! Conditioning kids out of this takes persistence and balance. It requires both the positive reward for truth and the consequence for deception. In practice, we actually use the child’s own mind as our ally in our efforts to teach our children to “Tell the Truth The First Time”. Remember, it doesn’t hurt to acknowledge that you, as the parent, did something accidentally to create the environment where the child somehow thought it acceptable to lie. So it’s time to redouble your efforts and get to work!

Here’s an example. When our son reported that his younger sister was asked to leave his room but she didn’t leave fast enough, we call both children in. We tell the sister what was reported and [if we believe this was the truth] we asked her if what we just learned was the truth. If she admits it that it is true that she didn’t treat her brother with respect, JACKPOT. We immediately praise the choice to be honest and we are then in control.

Depending on how bad the choice was, we can tell them that, since they told the truth, there will be no consequence but that they must choose to do better and [as always] make it right with her brother by apologizing and committing to her brother to do better next time. Then we tell her that if she hadn’t have told the truth, this is what your consequence WOULD have been, and we lay out a very severe consequence such as loss of several important privileges such as computer time, television, trampoline, etc. But since she told the truth, she didn’t lose those. Sometimes the transgression is so serious that, in addition to the requirement that they make it right with their sibling, they still earn a consequence, but we nevertheless outline how bad it would have been had they told us a lie by outlining the serious set of consequences that they almost suffered!

Again – the parent has to work hard but they will “catch them” being truthful the “First Time”. When you catch this – shower it with praise and remind them of the achievement and strength of character they showed by choosing honesty. It doesn’t hurt to remind them that, just a few weeks ago, they would have chosen a lie and that it shows that they are growing. Also explain that telling a lie impedes the growth of the relationships with their family and others since trust is now gone and people are not inclined to be in a relationship with someone they can’t trust. Again – the positive is met with the reward

This immediate remedy is, of course, part of a broader lesson of everyday life about character, integrity, and the choice to be truthful that kids get from us every day on a wide range of issues that arise in our daily lives. The teaching never stops because the lessons are everywhere….

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