Activities to Teach Kids Honesty
"Honesty is the best policy." That is an aphorism we all wish our children would take to heart. But how do you teach your children to embrace honest? Here are a few steps that we have used in our own home with our two girls.
Model the Behavior You Want to See
First, it is important to remember that children (particularly very young children) will model the behavior they see. Also, remember that young children do not understand polite social lies. Should a young child see you tell your horribly dressed friend that she looks good, all that child will understand is that you lied to your friend. So be mindful of the behavior your child is seeing modeled by you and your significant other.
Open Dialog through Story
Then open a dialog with your child. Discuss your expectations openly and clearly. When my daughter was four we set her down for a frank conversation about truthfulness. (We had mentioned the subject before but this was our first real conversation.) We began by reading the story The Boy Who Cried Wolf together.
There are numerous variation on this story. Some of the stories end with the death of the boy. Some of the stories seem to have no consequences with both the boy and the sheep escaping. For ourselves, we chose a version in which the boy escapes but his sheep do not.
I wanted a story that presented consequences for lying. The villagers stopped believing the boy and he lost all his sheep. But I didn't want to give her nightmares by having the boy being eaten by a wolf.
After reading the story we talked about what happened to the boy. His lying resulted in his friends and neighbors no longer believing him when he spoke. I asked her, "How do you think that would feel?" I also asked her, "What could happen if people don't believe you?" We talked about her answer for a few minutes before I let her run off and play.
Repetition Repetition Repetition
Since reading the story I have looked for appropriate times to remind her of the lesson she learned. I will mention the importance of trust or how trust lost is difficult to regain. Sometimes we will even go over the story again.
However, we don't just talk about honesty. If our girls are dishonest with us they receive twice the punishment they normally would have received. Most of the time they will just admit to their crime rather than receive double the discipline.
Other Times for an Honesty Talk
Another good time to have a discussion of honest is during or after a television show in which the issue comes up. My oldest daughter loves "My Little Ponies". During one episode the ponies decided to have a surprise party for Pinkie Pie. In order to achieve their goal the other ponies lied to Pinkie Pie about what they were doing. Pinkie Pie, naturally, realized her friends were lying to her, but she didn't understand why, feeling ignored and slighted.
I asked my daughter to think about how she would feel if she found out her friends were lying to her. "Even though her friends were trying to do a good think their lie still hurt Pinkie Pie, didn't it?" I asked my daughter. We discussed the lying for only a few minutes but it was enough to remind my daughter that honest is, in fact, the best policy.
We also addressed the issue of honest during a board game we were playing together. My oldest daughter would try to skip her sister turn so that she could play more. So, we talked about how cheating is another way that people can be dishonest. I addressed the fact that people would not want to play games with her if she did not play fair.
Establish Spiritual Guidelines
The final way that we address and encourage honest is through Bible study. I do not know of a religion that does not encourage honesty. Address that fact directly as you are nurturing your children's souls. We told our girls flat out that God wants them to tell the truth. (We did add the caveat that this does not mean they should blurt out every thought in their head.)
Honest is an important topic and most good parents fret about whether or not they are doing right by their children. Talk a deep breath and just remember address the subject directly. Be clear in your expectations. And come back to it often. Good luck.