Teaching your kids honesty

Honesty is a trait which we all want our children to imbibe and grow with. It’s one of the first few qualities we emphasize on when grooming and disciplining our children. Yet most of us are at a wits end when it comes to handling lying.

It is natural for kids to lie. Occasional, small time fibbing is harmless as long as you are aware of it. But again, it is important to nip them in the bud early so that it does not go on to become a habit. While doing so, it’s also important to handle it diplomatically, so that it does not become counter-productive.

Why do kids lie?

Most kids lie. Though it’s natural part of child development and growing up, it can could come as a big shocker when it happens for the first time.

  • Psychologists say that very young children don’t understand the difference between truth and falsehood.  Often it’s an outcome of forgetfulness and wishful thinking. So it’s simple and innocent lying, and at this stage, it doesn’t make sense to punish them.
  • Slightly older kids hide the truth to save their skin and avoid the wrath of their parents. They’re well aware of the consequences they have to face from their parents. So in anticipation of this, they cover up by lying.
  • Children suffering from a low esteem may take to bragging to impress others or to fit into a peer group.  Similarly, children who are insecure may invent scenarios to gain attention from their parents.
  • Kids may also lie to silently rebel against adults’ rules e.g. lying about having completed homework in order to be able to watch TV.

How to deal with dishonesty?

  • Don’t accuse: Calling your child names or labeling her a “liar” will only make her defensive. Instead tell her you’re hurt by her behavior and you don’t approve of it.  While doing so, lay down the rules firmly, but gently. Also make sure you don’t make the rules very stringent. The harder the rules, they’re more likely to get broken and urge the child to lie to avoid punishment.
  • Find out the reason for the lie: When a child lies, there must be an underlying serious problem. So it is important to get to the bottom of it and find out why the child is lying. What and why the child is trying to hide from lying may be much more important than the lie itself. If your child is lying about her marks at school, she is probably under too much pressure to perform better. Or if she is trying to avert discipline, maybe it’s too rigid for her liking. In both cases you may have to
  • Don’t question, if you already know the truth: Don’t grill your child to tell the truth, if you already know it. Forcing your child to confess will set off a chain reaction of lies as the child tries to protect itself. Stay calm and tell them it’s better to tell the truth and get off with it lightly than to lie and disappoint you.
  • Praise honesty: Praise your child whenever she confesses on her own. Reward her with a kiss and a hug and tell her how much you appreciate her honesty. This will encourage her to tell her the truth more often.
  • Tell your child the consequences of lying: Teach your child the importance of telling the truth. Make her understand that people will stop believing her even when she’s being honest. A good approach to this could be through reading moral stories. There could be no better example than “The boy who cried wolf”.

  • Stay cool: Shouting and getting angry is the most natural thing to do when you catch your 6 year old lying. But in effect, it won’t get you anywhere.  Making a scene of the issue will only worsen the situation and make your child go on the defensive.  And you may end up taking more time than expected to get out the truth.
  • Be a role model: Practice what you preach. The best way to inculcate honesty in your children is to lead by example. So be honest yourself. And if you’re under some compulsion to lie, make sure you’re discreet about it. If you want to avoid talking to someone on the phone, instead of telling the child to pass on a message that you’re not at home, tell her to say, that you’re a little busy at the moment and you’ll call back soon (you can at least pretend to be busy!).

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