ParentingPep Talk

World Honesty Day- Teaching honesty to children

By Priya Narayan

“A clear conscience is more valuable than wealth”. “Honesty is the best policy”. “No price can recompense the pangs of dishonesty.” These common proverbs are often used to emphasise the quality of being honest. Honesty is defined as an act of speaking and acting truthfully. It is indeed challenging for adults to be truthful all the time, nevertheless, we always expect our children to be honest.

Did you know that M. Hirsh Goldberg, (a former US government official) declared April 30th as World Honesty Day? This day is celebrated in the United States in an attempt to encourage honesty and straightforwardness in all fields of life. Many children think honesty simply means “don’t tell a lie” – but honesty means much more than just not lying.

Let us have a look at top 5 innovative ways to teach our children honesty:

  1. Start early: Research shows that by the age of 6 a child knows the difference between a lie and truth, and by the time they’re 7 or 8 years old, they’re accountable for their actions. When your children are young, talk to them and explain how honesty is the backbone of your family. Give them an example how family relationships revolve around mutual trust and respect. Ingrain in them a belief that no matter what they do, if they are truthful, you as a parent will stand by them under any circumstances. But if they lie, that trust will be broken and it will take a long time to build it back.
  2. Be a good role model, not only in words but also in lifestyle: Mangalam Swami is a retired senior citizen who stays in Mumbai with her daughter, son-in-law and 9-year-old grandson. She always walks the talk and plays an ideal role model for her grandson, so that he can observe her and appropriately conduct himself. She sets a good example by speaking the truth always and by avoiding white lies. For example, when she is annoyed or angry she expresses herself rather than showing fake happiness. Be brief, age-appropriate and honest in your responses to children’s questions. Both parents and children have a right to a private life, so you need to draw careful boundaries when sharing “not so light” details.
  3. Find out the reason for lying: There are many reasons why a child would lie. It could just be their imagination or an attempt to tell an interesting story with twists and turns in their own words. Usually, an overly strict parent, lack of trust in an adult, lack of love, fear of punishment or unavailability of parents can contribute to lying. No matter how difficult it may be, try to be cool and calm, sit down with your child and have a heart to heart conversation. Find out what is bothering your child. A loving, empathetic approach will empower the child to open up what is going on in their mind. This will enable them to confidently own up their mistakes and correct themselves when required.
  4. Emphasise more on their honesty than on their dishonest behaviour: It is necessary to discipline children, however, do it with respect and tenderness. Praise their good behaviour and positively reward them for it. At the same time do not exaggerate the negative or bad behaviour. When you know that your child has lied to you, do not keep nagging them with constant questioning. This may encourage them to cover up their mistakes and further lie rather than being honest and upfront. Sit with the child, explain the after effects of their behaviour, and let the child decide for themselves whether it should be repeated or not. By this way, you are enabling the child to take responsibility for their behaviour.
  5. Storytelling: Old fables and tales connect with human emotions and behaviours. Bedtime stories are fun and they facilitate bonding between the parent and child. Positive behaviour is thus conveyed to the child in a playful and appealing manner. As it is done during bedtime, it is deeply registered in their subconscious mind and soon becomes a habit.

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Tanya is a graduate in Sociology from Sophia College, Mumbai, a post-graduate in Communications and Media from SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai and holds a Master's Degree in Journalis & Mass Communications from Chandigarh University. A former writing mentor and a seasoned lifestyle writer, Tanya writes columns on The Lifestyle Portal of life and living.

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