Chapter 1Month 1:HonestyHonesty with other individuals, with institutions, with society, with self. The inner strength and confidence that is bred by exacting truthfulness, trustworthiness, and integrity.
Pulling into the driveway one day, I noticed a broken milk bottle on the pavement. I asked nine-year-old Josh and his friend, Chip, if they knew how it happened. Chip quickly said no. Josh looked over at him, somewhat startled, then walked over and put his hand on Chip's shoulder and said, "It's okay, he'll understand." Then to me, "The basketball hit it, Dad. Sorry. We were going to dean it up, bat we forgot. Come on, Chip, I'll get the dustpan."
I listened through the window as they were sweeping up. "One thing I've learned," Josh was counseling Chip, a full six months his junior, "is that you get in a lot less trouble when you just go ahead and tell the truth." -- RichardTEACHING YOUR CHILDREN VALUES
Teaching children honesty can be a real challenge, given the examples of dishonesty that they will encounter every day in the world around them. Your example, and your constant feedback about your child's behavior, can be a powerful influence on your child. Along with your example, we have discovered some other teaching methods that work. These methods are presented (as they are in each chapter) in four brief sections. First, general guidelines for children of all ages; then methods aimed at preschoolers, elementary-age children, and adolescents.GENERAL GUIDELINESBe completely honest with your children.
This will show them how always applicable the principle is and will demonstrate your commitment to it. Answer their questions truthfully and candidly unless it is a question that is off-limits, and then tell them simply and honestly why you won't answer it. Never let them hear you tell little "convenient lies" on the phone and never ask them to tell one for you ("My mommy isn't home"). Don't exaggerate. Don't threaten to do things you don't really intend to do.Give praise and the chance to "start over."
This gives children a quick second chance to be truthful. Don't be anxious to "catch" your children in a lie. Instead "catch them telling the truth" and praise them for it. If they do tell (or begin to tell) what you think is an untruth, interrupt and say, "Wait, think for a minute. Remember that it's important to tell the truth." Then let them start over.Point out consequences.
Show your children the cause-and-effect dynamics of honesty and dishonesty. Watch for situations (in real life, on TV, etc.) where a dishonest act was performed. Point out the consequences to both the object of the act (the person or institution that was cheated or hurt or deceived) and the doer of the act. Also look for illustrations of honesty and mention the positive consequences, especially the inner peace, confidence, and self-respect gained by the honest individual.Methods for Preschoolers
The Demonstration Game
This game can help small children grasp the concept and know the terminology.
Ask, "Do you know the difference between something that's true and something that's not true? Let's see if you do. I'll say something and you say, 'True' or 'Not true.'" Start with simple physical facts and move toward things relating to behavior, for example:
* The sky is green. (Kids say, "Not true.")
* (Point at foot) This is my foot. (Kids say, "True.")
* Ants are bigger than elephants.
* We see with our eyes.
* We hear with our nose.
* Milk comes from chickens.
* Take a cookie out of a jar and eat it. Then say, "I didn't eat the cookie."
* Drop a toy on the couch. Then say, "Yes, I left my toy on the couch."
Then say, "You really can
tell the difference between true and not true, can't you? Do you know what it's called when someone says something that's not true? It's called a lie."
Now: "I'll say some more things and you say, 'Truth' if it's true and 'Lie' if it's not true."
* Pick up a dollar on the floor. Then say, "I didn't find a dollar."
* Give a bit of food to someone else. Then say, "No, I didn't eat all my food. I gave some of it to --."
(Use illustrations appropriate to your child or children.)
Then ask, "Why is telling the truth better than telling a lie?" (So that everyone knows what really happened; so the wrong person won't get blamed; so we can learn to do better, etc.)Give Effusive, Elaborate Praise
This encourages honesty on a day-to-day basis. Preschoolers will repeat behavior they receive attention for. They prefer positive attention (praise) to negative attention (reproval or punishment), but they prefer negative attention to no attention at all.
Therefore, when small children lie, try to give them as little attention as possible (other than quietly letting them know that you know it's not the truth). When they tell the truth, praise them extravagantly. And when they tell the truth in terms of admitting they did something wrong ("Who wrote on this wall?"), make the praise you give them for telling the truth outweigh the punishment or redress you give them for what they did. Preschoolers can understand the distinction and the separation between your displeasure with what they did and your pleasure with their truthfulness.
One interesting development in our family efforts to teach honesty occurred when our twenty-month-old baby, Charity, learned two now words. She already know how to say tho names of each of her eight brothers and sisters (or at least her version of those names). Then one weak she learned two new words: did it.
With those words and her siblings' names she became an instant, expert tattletale. Whenever we asked, "Who made this mess?' or "Who squeezed the toothpaste out?" little Charity, who is a marvelously observant child, would tell us the answer.
One result was that tho other children became more thoroughly honest -- or at least more quickly
honest about what they had done. Charity the Enforcer, one of her brothers began to call her. -- RichardThe Honesty-About-Feelings Game
This will help small children realize that feelings are caused by what has happened -- and that it is okay to feel things and okay to tell others honestly how we feel. Go through a magazine (one with lots of ads and colored pictures) and point at faces saying, "How do you think he feels?" Then say, "Why do you think he feels that way?" Then say, "Is it okay to feel that way?"
Help children to identify feelings and their probable causes and to know that it's okay to feel those things and to tell other people how they feel.Methods for Elementary
The Consequence Game
This game can help children understand that the long-term consequences of honesty are always better than the long-term consequences of dishonesty.
Prepare pairs of simple index cards or small sheets of paper. On one side of each of the cards in the pair describe two alternative courses of action -- one honest and one dishonest -- along with the short-term consequences of each action. Fill out the other side of the cards so that when the two cards are flipped over, the long-term consequences are revealed. Play it as a game, letting children decide, by looking at the front sides only, which option they would take.Front sides:
You are at the store buying something and the clerk gives you $10 too much change. You keep it. After all, it was his mistake and not yours. You go into the toy store next door and buy some new handle grips for your bike.
When the clerk gives you the $10 extra change, you tell him he has given you too much and give the $10 back to him. He says thanks, but as you walk out, you start thinking about the new handle grips you could have bought with the $10.Reverse sides:
You know the money wasn't yours. You start to worry that the clerk will have to pay the store $10 out of his wages. Whenever you ride your bike, the new handle grips remind you that you were dishonest.
You feel good and strong inside because you were honest. Whenever you ride your bike, you remember that you need handle grips, but you also remember that you were honest.Front sides:
You are sitting in class taking a really hard test that you forgot to study for. The girl across the aisle seems to know all the answers, and her paper is so easy to see. You copy a few answers and end up getting an A- on the test.
You're a little mad at yourself for not studying harder and you're really worried about your grade. Still, you keep your eyes on your paper and do your best. Unfortunately your best that day is only a C on the test.Reverse sides:
Your conscience bothers you. You know that you didn't deserve the A. You wonder if anyone saw you cheating. It's a little hard for you to get to sleep that night. On the next test you're unprepared again.
You resolve to study harder. Next test you do better. You like yourself because you know you are honest. Other people like you because they know you can be trusted.
Develop other cards to meet your own situation. Let the short-term consequence of a dishonest act be good, the long-term consequence bad. Develop cards on honesty with parents, with siblings, with friends, with institutions, and so on.
After playing the game ask the question What could a person do if he made the dishonest choice and felt bad about it afterward? (He could return the money, apologize, etc.)The Honesty Pact
Decide in advance, within your family, to be strictly honest with each other. Toward the end of this "month" on honesty, get together as a family around the dinner table or on an outing. Thank the children for their help in thinking about honesty during the month. Review what everyone has learned. Ask if anyone knows what a "pact" is. Suggest that th...