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

Teaching Honesty To Kids


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….

Share your thoughts. Leave a comment:

2 Responses to “Teaching Honesty To Kids”

  1. Sylvan Crofte
    January 30, 2011 at 2:29 am #

    Based upon your example of dis-honesty, you have in those few short paragraphs created a religion in you home. All religions are based upon ‘contracts’, religions spin that word to make it sound god-like by calling it a ‘covenant’. No matter how you spin it, it is still ‘if you do this, you will get this in return’. If we are going to be Spiritual But Nor Religious SBNR, then we might want to take a closer look at what it is about Religion that we dont like. In the first place, the basic concept in living a spiritual life, has to do with some kind of higher level of connection to our Creator. I would suggest that the reason why people, especially kids are dishonest, is because they have lost their ‘feeling’ or their spiritual connection. Religion tells us that if we are honest and do this and do that, then we will be rewarded for all of our ‘goodness’ in the next life by living with God, or getting 72 virgins, or by having a mansion, or by whatever. What is so different in that from what you have described in your ‘home’ virsion of your mini-religion to deal with your kids’ dishonesty, by establishing contracts (written or un-written). We are dishonest or ‘evil’, or disrespectful or untrustworthy or etc., because we are not spiritual. Concentrating on being spiritual will actually solve all of those problems. Religion tries to solve that problem by making us feel guilty and in turn squeeze more and more money or time out of us to pay for our sins. In my old religion, I was taught that if I pay tithing, I will not burn at the last day, bla bla bla. We should be constantly sharing with our children the many experiences of how our hearts feel so much better (actually awesome is a better word) when we truly Love others as ourselves. Reading great stories of great people who as a result of their spiritualness reaped great rewards for their effort. One who comes to mind is Ghandi. He did meet a tragic death, but he is remembered for how he lived, not how he died. There are thousand of people with similiar stories, maybe not as all-encompassing as his, but still just a spiritually motivating. Lots of movies like that too. The end (finally), made it as short as I could!

  2. Zym Soljourn
    February 2, 2011 at 6:59 pm #

    Children pick up the smallest indications of deception or lies ever so small as one my think it is all that it take for children to learn from us, how to deal with our problems. and if you are a parent that uses guild and shame that in and of it;s self will engender the need to lie.

    look no further than us to blame for our children education.

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