The definition of honesty is to be free of deceit and untruthfulness. It’s a beautiful virtue that we desire for our kids to bestow. The honest truth is that it can be hard, especially when we’ve done something wrong. So, how do we teach our kids what it means to be honest and continually choose honesty even when it doesn’t feel good?
Let’s start with what it means to be honest. Simply put, honesty is always telling the truth. The Hebrew word for honesty literally means straightness. Let’s think of it this way. . . We’re walking on a straight path called “honesty.” It’s a direct path from us to God that is lit really well. When we tell a lie or do something dishonest, we veer to the right or left and suddenly we’re off the path, out of the light. If we keep going off the path, the darkness gets deeper and deeper.
Jesus did this amazing thing when He created us. He put in us a built-in system that sends off alerts when we go off the path. We know when we’ve been dishonest because we feel shame, guilt, and fear. At that moment, we have a choice. We can choose to tell the truth, which puts us back on the lit path that leads straight to God, or we can continue to be dishonest which leads us further and further away from God, further into darkness.
How do we teach our kids to choose honesty continually? I don’t know a single kid that has never told a lie or hasn’t done something dishonest. I still remember the time I pocketed a piece of gum from the grocery store. I must have been about 8 years old. I didn’t need that piece of gum. I just wanted to see what it would feel like to push that boundary. I never told my parents for fear of what was to come if they knew of my dishonesty. I think that’s the first key to encouraging our kids to pursue honesty. As parents, we must create a safe place for our kids to be able to tell the truth. If we respond in anger every time our kids admit they’ve told a lie, then eventually they will stop coming with the truth.
That doesn’t mean there’s not a consequence to the action. (In my situation, I would have had my kid go back to the store, apologize, and pay for the gum.) It does mean that we respond in kind. The tone of voice is extremely important here. Jesus is a great example of this. He hates sin, but as we read in Romans 2:4, it’s His kindness that leads us to repentance, not His anger. Once we’ve got that down, parents, here are some ideas to further instill honesty in kids.
- Do a Bible study with your kids on honesty. There are loads of examples in the Bible of people who did dishonest things. The story of David (2 Samuel 11, 12) is a great example of someone who did dishonest things, but when he was confronted, he chose to get back on the straight, lit path.
- For a simpler story for young ones, read Tipper Tells A Lie together. Tipper’s lie catches up with him (just like David’s). It’s a great story that teaches the importance of honesty.
- Plan a fun family night and explain that one of your family’s values is honesty and that means that we always tell the truth, even when we’ve done something wrong.
- Talk with your child about the kind of feelings they feel when they lie versus when they tell the truth. Helping them to recognize the difference will encourage them to choose the path of honesty.
- Play an age-appropriate honesty game. There are loads of ideas on the Internet. One great idea is to play the classic Go Fish game. Play a round with everyone being honest. Then, play a round with everyone being dishonest. Afterward, talk about how each game felt.
- When the cashier gives you too much change, kindly inform them and return the excess. Remember that your kids are watching and taking note!
- Encourage your kids to be honest about their feelings. Feelings can be confusing, and kids don’t always know how to handle them, often resulting in lashing out in negative behavior. Let them talk through how they are feeling, and use it as an opportunity to talk about ways to move forward without acting on those feelings. It’s also a great way to teach kids to take responsibility for their actions.
- Nip little white lies in the bud. Here’s the thing about little white lies. Once you start, they grow and grow until they’ve snowballed into something big. Identify the truth and encourage your child to be honest.
The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy. Proverbs 12:22
How are you teaching your kids what it means to be honest?