Every parent wants to raise kids who tell the truth. However, as your child grows in independence and develops a mind of their own, you may notice that they start telling little white lies or even big whoppers. Beginning at the age of two, your child develops the cognitive ability to weave stories that fit what they want or need.
Some kids lie to avoid getting in trouble. Others fabricate lies to get something they want. You may be troubled by this dishonesty, but it’s important to know that lying is normal for young children. In fact, all kids lie. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should let it slide. Honesty is a core value that you can instill into your child at a very young age.
No matter how little you’re child may be, here are seven ways to begin teaching your children to be honest.
1. Make Honesty a Positive Focus in Your Family
While they’re still young, you can begin to tell and show your children that honesty is an important value to your family. By using age-appropriate language, let them know explicitly that lying breaks trust and that families need to be able to believe what they tell each other is true.
2. Set an Example of Honesty
To teach honesty, you must set an example of honesty. While it can be difficult, especially with sensitive topics, avoid lying to your child. It’s better to let them know that some things are hard to talk about — such as death, illness or divorce — than to try to cover these topics up. You are your child’s primary role model, so you can’t expect them to tell the truth if you’re not honest with them. That said, you need to keep your answer child-appropriate, and it’s okay to create appropriate boundaries around private matters.
3. Don’t Ask Questions When You Know the Answer
One way to deter lying is not setting your child up to lie. If you know they haven’t picked up their toys in their room, there’s no need to ask if they’ve cleaned up. Preschool-aged kids especially often lie out of a desire to avoid getting in trouble. Instead, let them know that you already know the truth — they haven’t picked up. This step avoids putting them in a position in which they feel the need to lie.
4. Avoid Labeling
It’s never a good idea to call your child a liar. In the short term, it puts them on the defensive. Over time, they may start to believe that they’re a liar and continue acting on that misinformation.
Instead, help your child understand that you don’t like their lies, but you love them. If something sounds untrue, let them know that you feel they may be speaking dishonestly, and give them the opportunity to explain why they lied.
5. Tell Them How Happy Honesty Makes You
Most little children are extremely motivated to please their parents and other authority figures. When you let them know that telling the truth makes you happy, your child may be more likely to practice honesty. It will also help them feel good about being trustworthy.
6. Practice Calm Discipline
While it may be difficult to keep your cool if you catch your child in a lie, some children are dishonest because they’re afraid their parents will have a big emotional reaction. If you tend to be harsh and punitive, they may learn to avoid telling you the truth.
Instead, approach the situation calmly when your child lies, even if that means taking a few moments to cool off. They need to know that it’s okay for them to come forward with the truth. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t discipline your kids — just make sure it’s done in a calm and loving manner.
7. Praise Honesty
Telling the truth takes a lot of courage, especially when a child is afraid of punishment. When your little one comes to you with the truth, reward them with praise. This reaction will help you child feel great about their honestly, particularly in situations where a lie would have been easier.
Find Childcare That Supports Your Home Values
Haymarket Children’s Academy is proud to bring an unparalleled early education experience to children in the Gainesville, Virginia area. Our caregivers have years of experience working with young children and are on hand to teach our organization’s intrinsic values, including honesty and integrity. Through love, patience and kindness, we help children explore their world and learn how to interact with others in it.