As parents, we want to raise honest children. Yet we find that as a child reaches the age of 6, they start to blame others for their mistakes or learn to make excuses. To discuss this further, let me start by sharing my experience.
It all started like this. This is about the time when my then 6-year-old daughter was very excited to lose her first tooth. She came up to me all jumping, “Mumma I will keep this tooth under the pillow so the tooth fairy will visit and give me a gold coin”. Apparently, she watched it in some cartoon. I wasn’t amused. I was shocked! A Gold coin! That is too much. At the spur of the moment, I told her these are all just stories and I don’t think tooth fairies exist.
I know, one would think, it was a mean thing to do. But at that moment, I felt the need to make it clear that a gold coin is certainly a very expensive item. I explained it to her too. Also, being an adult and an idealistic one, I didn’t want my daughter to be drawn to such expensive materialistic things. However, I could have dealt with it in a different manner. I could have told her certainly the tooth fairy will visit but she would receive a gift basis her behaviour.
This leads me to discuss the value of honesty or how to raise honest children.
As adults, we know the difference between a lie and a white lie. I realized, stories of Santa Claus or tooth fairy in my case are white lies and they boost imagination, creative development and social skills in a child. White lies are generally said to protect the feelings of family and friends by a child. Also, it goes without saying that children learn from adults. For example, if we lie on phone to someone and the child overhears he feels its sometimes just ok to bluff to avoid the situation and would do that. As parents thus we need to be continuously on a vigil and explain to the child how to draw a line between a lie and a white lie.
Situations wherein a child is tempted to lie:
1. To make the story more interesting.
2. To cover up something so they are not scolded by parents.
3. To seek attention.
4. To get something that they want.
5. In cases of physical abuse, out of fear.
Generally, a child learns to lie from a very young age. But children lie more at 4 to 6 years of age. When children start interacting more in the school, they get better at lying and the lies get more complicated too as the child has more words and a better understanding of people or the reaction of parents. By the time they are 8 years of age, they learn to lie successfully without being caught.
Tips for encouraging honesty:
1. If a child is making up a story, you can say, “It’s an interesting story, you should write a book”. This way you can encourage a child’s imagination and creativity and at the same time, you are discouraging lying.
2. Avoid scolding or reacting immediately in a situation when a child is tempted to lie. For example, if they spill milk or water or mess up their room. You could just say, ” The room looks messy, should we clean up.”
3. Kids learn to brag to get appreciation and praises and are tempted to lie. As a parent we need to understand that the child is not getting praised enough thus he develops a habit of bragging to you
4. Read stories to highlight the virtue of honesty. The best example is the story ‘The boy who cried wolf’.
5. Involve the child in framing rules about acceptable behaviour in the family.
6. If the child is in a situation wherein he is likely to lie but takes up the courage to speak the truth, you should praise him a lot, this reaffirms his confidence and inculcates the value of honesty. He even develops immense trust in you.
7. Do not label a child as a liar. This label will lower his self-esteem and will lead to even more lying.
8. In cases wherein a child lies to hide any abuse by an adult, the parent needs to reassure a child that he’ll be safe if he’ll say the truth. Also, need to do your best to convince your child that you can make things better. If need be to seek professional help too in such cases.
9. Lastly, lead by example. As a parent avoid lying to the child or in presence of the child. avoid hiding from your child, be truthful. Communication is the key. Communicate with honesty.
Do share your parenting experiences with us and do let us know more tips on encouraging honesty among children as well.