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Integrity. Defined as the possessing firm principles and adhering to high moral principles, many believe integrity is a missing ingredient in our modern lives, which are often dedicated to getting, doing, and spending the most we possibly can. One aspect of integrity is honesty. Our children learn by observing our behavior, and if we wish our children to possess honesty, we need to model that behavior. This includes being honest in everything we do and say.

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In addition to modeling honesty, you can actively teach your children about honest behavior by doing the following:

  • Create an environment that encourages honesty.

Most lies are told out of fear – of being discovered, punished, or disappointing a parent. Teach your children that they do not need to be afraid of the consequences if they are honest. I always told my children the punishment for any infraction would be less if they told me about it truthfully than if I discovered it on my own or found out they had tried to cover it up.

  • Always be honest with your children.

This does not mean everything needs to be told. If Uncle Fred is visiting after getting out of prison, telling your young children that they have not seen him before because he was going through a rough time in his life will probably suffice. Uncle Fred, or you, may choose to share his experiences with your older children as a good life lesson on what not to do and the resulting consequences.

  • Explain the difference between make-believe and the truth as soon as your children are able to understand.

My parent made sure I understood the fun implicit in believing in the Easter Bunny and Santa Clause was different from dishonesty.

  • Explain the difference between politely tactful behavior and dishonesty.

When they answer the phone and you are in the bathroom, it is much better for your child to explain, “She’s not available right now” than “She’s on the toilet!” Teach your child how to be honest without hurting others’ feelings.

  • Let them know that they lose respect from you and others if they are dishonest.

Others begin not to believe anything we say if we become known as dishonest people. Having a reputation of honesty will serve them well not only now, but in the future.

  • Be honest with your children about your own fears, worries, and concerns.

Children have the ability to sense it when we have problems. We don’t need to transfer our fears to them, but a simple explanation such as, “I haven’t been feeling well lately” or “We are a bit low on money this month,” help your children recognize that it is important to be honest when we have troubles.

There are two major reasons we should always be honest with our children:

#1 When we are dishonest in little ways, our children will reach a point where they do not trust us. We have a family member that is extremely dishonest. Their conversation consists of obvious exaggerations and they treat dishonesty as if it is an exciting secret. Our children are now old enough to recognize changes in the stories and to see some harmful results from this individual’s deceit. They no longer believe anything this family member says and do not like to be around her. How sad it would be if our own children reached a point where they did not trust us.

#2 People who are dishonest begin to believe their own lies. They also end up distrusting other people. Both of these results of dishonesty can affect their personal and professional lives in many negative ways.

If you want your children to be honest, you need to be honest yourself. If they observe you telling those “little white lies” all day, they will model that behavior. Being open and honest about your feelings and actions will teach your children to do the same. They will grow into adults known for their honesty and integrity.

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