Raising children is not easy. Parents try to raise children who will become successful, caring individuals and who will take care of people and the earth. Lying, cheating, stealing and other dishonest behaviors should not be tolerated in children or even adults for that matter, unless you are quoting Will Smith in the famous movie Hitch: “Never lie, steal, cheat, or drink. But if you must lie, lie in the arms of the one you love. If you must steal, steal away from bad company. If you must cheat, cheat death. And if you must drink, drink in the moments that take your breath away.”
Living as a role model
So how do parents foster honesty in their children? Yes, it is true that children can be mischievous and will get into trouble at times, but it is important not to allow this bad behavior to become a habit. Children pick up behaviors early in childhood and will mirror adults who surround them, so being a good role model is the key to raising a child who will demonstrate good behavior.
Children copy actions, whether positive or negative. The saying, “actions speak louder than words,” often holds true especially when parents think nobody is watching. Newsflash: Someone is always watching and, for parents, that usually is their “mini-selves.” Modeling honesty is the first step — and maybe even the most important step — in teaching children to act with honest intentions.
Harvesting a safe haven
It is important to create a safe environment for children when they do act up. If a child is caught in a lie or participating in bad behavior, it is important to discipline him or her with love. If children are fearful of their parents or afraid they will get in trouble for telling the truth, they will likely lie to avoid the repercussions. Speaking in a calm manner, softening body language and communicating the importance of honesty are crucial to developing good character skills in young ones. It is important to explain to them that coming forward and telling the truth about a bad behavior will illicit less of a punishment than lying about the bad behavior. If children understand that they will receive a lesser punishment if they are honest, they will more likely tell the truth.
The importance of honesty
It is vital that parents speak with their children from a very early age about the importance of honesty and practicing truthfulness within the family. It is imperative for children to be honest with their parents and loved ones. After all, if children cannot go to their parents and practice honesty, they will most likely be unable to be honest with other people. Telling a child the importance honesty may be the most crucial lesson to harvesting a good kid.
Parenting is not easy. In fact, think of it like playing a contact sport — you are going to get hurt by your kids and you have to learn to teach them the rules and regulations of the game called life. Fostering and enforcing good behavior from an early age and modeling this behavior yourself are important to raising good human beings.
As a therapeutic boarding school for adolescent males from ages 12 to 17, White River Academy understands the importance of parental involvement in their children’s education. That is why we involve families in the process of treating addiction, mental health disorders and co-occurring conditions in their young loved ones. For more information, call our 24/7 helpline.
About the author
Kristen Fuller, M.D., enjoys writing about evidence-based topics in the cutting-edge world of medicine. She is a physician and author, who also teaches, practices medicine in the urgent care setting and contributes to medicine board education. She is also an outdoor and dog enthusiast.