How to Teach Kids About Honesty
by Lydia Kaiser
Why is it that when a preacher or a priest commits an immoral act, it’s bigger news than when, say a plumber, commits the same act? It’s because ministry is a character profession. It’s a profession designed to teach God’s character to others and as such are held to a higher standard.
Well, guess what? Parenting is a character profession too. Which means, if we want to teach kids about honesty, we must practice integrity ourselves before we can transfer it to our children. Here are seven practical ways to teach kids about honesty and lead by example.
1. Always Tell the Truth
One of the most important aspects of integrity is telling the truth. Commit to start right now with a household policy that 100% truthfulness is required at all times, of everyone in the family. This includes never asking your kids to lie for you around others and always telling them the truth ourselves. We need to let them see us be honest, even when it’s hard or we have to face consequences. In fact, use the struggle to tell the truth as a teaching moment to explain that, while you confess it crossed your mind to not be completely honest in this situation because of fear, in the end, you chose honesty and you’re glad you did.
2. Be Open About Mistakes
Always be honest with your kids and others when you make a mistake or mess something up. It’s easy to cover up a mistake and hope no one notices — especially with our kids because they might not be as aware. But if you want to teach your kids about honesty and set a good example, it’s far better in the long run to point out your mistakes and how you dealt with them. Big mistakes or small, help kids see that it wasn’t the end of the world, people forgave us when we apologized, and it made us feel much better to be completely open in our relationships. Acting like we’re perfect only causes people to not feel emotionally safe with us.
3. Reward Honest Behavior
One of the best ways to teach kids about honesty is through positive reinforcement. Whenever you see kids act with honesty when it would have been easier to lie, reward that honesty by placing more emphasis on their decision to be honest and confess their mistake, rather than the mistake itself. Thank them, and while you may still need to have consequences for their mistake, help alleviate those consequences wherever possible to make the child glad they enlisted your help, rather than choosing to cover up their actions. Talk through how much better things went with honesty, rather than deception, and praise their good character. Whenever a child chooses honesty, do all you can to turn that negative experience into a positive one!
4. Apologize When You’re Wrong
It’s always hard to admit when we’re wrong, but apologies demonstrate being able to look at ourselves honestly and then be honest with others. That’s why, when apologizing, it’s important to actually name the sin or offense, and then take personal responsibility by using the word “I”, instead of talking like something just happened on its own.
Being a parent means that your kids look up to you, but that doesn’t mean you have to be perfect all the time (no one is!). One of the best ways you can teach kids honesty, is by practicing it yourself, admitting when you’ve made a mistake, and saying sorry.
5. Teach Kids To Show Honesty Through Evidence
Another way you can teach kids about honesty is by teaching them to back up what they say and do with evidence. For example, if you send your child into the store with money to purchase something, send them in with the expectation to return with the receipt and correct change. Explain that this isn’t because you don’t trust them, but rather that you’re trying to help them to build an important habit. Explain that by providing evidence when possible, you can build trust with others faster by helping them to not have to wonder if everything is above board. When gathering evidence for your words and actions becomes second nature, not only will you make less unintentional mistakes, you’ll also nurture trust and honesty in relationships.
6 Use Illustrations, Stories, and Other Resources
Illustrations are also a great way to teach kids about honesty. To help you do just that, you can find a wide variety of stories and resources through Child Evangelism Fellowship® on our website, www.cefpress.com. One such story is found in the visualized lesson from CEF®, called the Ice Cream MESSage. It’s about a boy who struggles to do the right thing but, in the end, is glad he made the right decision and chose honesty.
Want to teach kids about honesty this summer? Invite your child’s friends over for an ice cream play date, and use our CEF Ice Cream MESSage party club kit to share the value of honesty with both your child and your neighborhood.
7. Remind Children What Jesus Says About Honesty
Lastly, remind children that while honesty is a good thing that helps us in our life and relationships, ultimately we should always tell the truth and confess our sins because God wants us to. In John 8:31-32, Jesus said “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Honesty is a biblical principle that sets us free. What does truth set us free from? It sets us free from slavery to sin, guilt, and regrets — and it can set your child free too.
The book of Romans also has much to say about freedom from sin. Ultimately, that’s what God’s salvation is all about: freedom from sin and its terrible consequences. Praise God, only the truth of Jesus and His work on the cross gives us that freedom!
I hope you enjoyed these 7 tips on how to teach kids about honesty. When you choose to lead by example as a parent and encourage integrity in your home, you can help make truth attractive to children and help them live in the joy of honesty.
If you know a high school or college-age student who is ready to grow deeper in their faith, become a bold, effective witness for Christ, and influence children’s lives for eternity, inspire them to take action through Christian Youth in Action®. Visit cefonline.com/cyia to learn more.
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