Richard Bromfield is a psychologist on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and author of How to Unspoil Your Child Fast.
Parents aspire to raise children to be good citizens of strong character. Raising children who are honest is key to that goal. Here are seven tips for fostering honesty in children:
Create room for candor. Welcome your child’s thoughts and feelings. Make family and dinner time a chance for your child to grow her authentic voice.
Seek to understand. When you catch your child in an untruth, strive to hear his story. Try to grasp what fears led your child to believe that he could not tell the truth.
Hold your child responsible. Firm, fair consequences and limits teach what scolding cannot. Do not allow a child to use a cute distortion of the truth to wiggle her way out of life.
Discuss honesty. Talk about truth with your child. Use words and concepts he can understand. Invite him to think about what honesty means for trust and relationships.
Model honesty. Children admire their parents and want to be like them. Acknowledge your words and behaviors. Let your child see you admit mistakes.
Beware of hypocrisy. Children notice when parents preach one thing and live another. Your well-meaning white lies can teach your child to spin the truth. Strive to be honest, even if it means you’ll face difficult consequences.
Teach rather than rebuke. Inspire and encourage your child to want to be honest. Harsh punishment or calling him a liar may make you feel better for a moment but likely will not change your child’s behavior.
Being honest is a lifelong enterprise that begins early. Use every opportunity to nurture and grow your child’s honesty.