Truth Be Told, Honesty's the Best Policy

Let’s be honest…telling the truth isn’t always easy, even within families. The lies just seem to slip out when the truth is inconvenient or uncomfortable. (Like a mom telling an impatient child, “just two more minutes,” when she knows it will be ten, or a moody teen saying everything is fine when really someone at school has been bullying him.) But making honesty a priority in your family can actually be pretty painless most of the time if you make a point of it. And it’s worth it because it forms a solid foundation of trust and positive communication that can help you deal with the tough stuff that comes along.

For advice on dealing with lying, see How Rude!: Lying.

Tips for . . .

  • parents with children ages birth to 5
    • Give kids the chance to tell the truth. Instead of accusing, ask: Do you think it might be hard for me to believe what you just told me?
    • Avoid small untruths like, “The juice is gone,” when really you just don’t want them to have any more.
    • parents with children 6 to 9
    • Talk about dishonesty in books you read together. Suggest different ways the characters could have acted.
    • Realize that asking demanding questions (“Did you throw that at your sister?”), when you already know the answers, may corner them into lies if they think you might be fooled (“No, I dropped it and it hit her.”)
    • parents with children 10 to 15
    • Make it a game to find dishonesty in advertising. Discuss why companies might want to mislead people or hide some information.
    • Live honestly, even when it’s “no big deal”: Return the extra if given too much change, play fair, own up to fibs or made-up excuses.
    • Keep in mind that kids usually lie because it seems safer than telling the truth. If you suspect your child is lying, try to get at the reason. Say, for example, “I’m having a hard time believing this story, did something happen that you’re afraid to tell me?” Or, “There seems to be more to this than what you’re saying, what else is bothering you?”
    • parents with children 16 to 18
    • Find out how common your kids think cheating is among their friends and in school. Do they know the consequences if caught? What about if they aren’t caught; what are the consequences of that?
  • When your children are honest with you about problems, concerns, or sensitive topics, praise them, even if you don’t like what you have been told. Separate honesty from other issues.

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