Kids and Honesty Self Help Advice

Written by Elizabeth Pantley

How to successfully teach your kids to tell the truth. First, you have to be an example.

Are you catching your child in small lies, of the "I didn't do it" variety?

Be a truthfulness model for your children.
Be aware that if your daughter hears you telling those innocent "little white lies," you are teaching her something about honesty.
Having her tell someone on the phone that you're not home is one little white lie.
Shrinking your child's age so that you can get the cheaper rate at the movies or at a restaurant is another.
Your child is usually more observant than you think.
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Children lie for all sorts of reasons. Some do it to keep their parents happy, so they won't get in trouble, to cover embarrassment or inadequacy or even because they don't understand the distinction between fact and fiction. Elizabeth Pantley, author of Kid Cooperation, offers suggestions on how to deal with kids who lie.
Don't play detective
If your daughter has chocolate on her face and the candy is gone, don't ask, "Did you eat that candy bar that was sitting on the counter?" Try instead, "I'm disappointed that you ate the candy bar without asking. That will be your snack for today."

If she says, "I didn't." don't play 20 questions, just state the facts, "The candy is gone, and there's chocolate on your face. Why don't you go up to your room for a while and come on back down when you want to talk about it."
Spend time on solutions instead of laying blame
It's more constructive to say, "Regardless of how it happened, the lamp is broken. What are we going to do about it?"
Don't start the "off the hook" mistake
Resist the urge to lecture. Thank her for telling you and then focus on finding a solution or imposing a consequence, without anger. Don't say, "If you tell the truth, you won't be punished."
Owning up to mistakes is difficult, but we need to teach kids how to accept responsibility for their actions. As an adult, if you're driving your car and hit someone's car in the parking lot, you are not "off the hook" by simply admitting you were in the wrong.
Review your expectations
Kids sometimes lie because they feel they think it's easier than feeling like a failure. Take a look at how you respond to her mistakes or inadequacies, and make sure you leave room for imperfections.
If a child develops a pattern of lying, and is persistent about continuing the lie even after the truth is discovered, it's time to seek professional advice.

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(Excerpted with permission by NTC/Contemporary Publishing Group Inc. from Perfect Parenting, The Dictionary of 1,000 Parenting Tips by Elizabeth Pantley, copyright 1999)
Photographer: Uschi Hering

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