Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Teaching Honesty

The Question:

How do you teach children to be honest all of the time?

The Answer:

On the surface, this seems like a simple question. I think most of us realize that our children will tell the truth when we make it easy for them to do so. When we discipline harshly, they will quickly learn to avoid physical pain by lying. When we stand over them with the broken vase and conduct a torturous interrogation, the truth loses its appeal. But we want our children to have the strength of character to be honest even under harsh conditions. We want their honesty to go deep. That’s why our teachings must reach below the surface and be foundational.

First, we teach them about God. We pray to him, talk of him, express our love for him and make him a reality for our children every day. We teach them that pleasing God is the crown jewel. Nothing else in the world matters as much. We point out the many ways that God shows his love for us and the ways that we show our love for him. This teaching is at the very core of honesty. There is no vase or toy or money or game that matters as much to us as pleasing our Heavenly Father. The Lord said of Hyrum Smith, “I love him because of the integrity of his heart and because he loveth that which is right before me.” I’m not suggesting that whenever we detect dishonesty in our children, we lecture them about the reality of God. Our teachings are constant.

We value honesty. When we play games with them, we notice and compliment their honesty. We remind them each day as they leave for school to do what is right—not just to get good grades. When we see their small victories-- for example, when they tell the truth in a sticky situation-- we honor them. “You remind me of Daniel. You do what’s right even when it isn’t easy.”

When they lie or take something that isn’t theirs, we help them to repair the damage immediately and then discuss with them how good it feels to be honest. “Then people can trust us. Heavenly Father can trust us.”

The most sobering aspect of teaching honesty might be in examining our own lives. Our children will probably never be more honest in their dealings than we are. They will rationalize the things that we rationalize because we will show them how!

Perfect integrity is indeed a lifetime pursuit. But what a blessing it will be to our children if we can teach and model for them, patterns of honesty that will stay with them throughout their lives.


  1. I very much like your answer! I would also add that I think it's important to realize that when children are small often times they get fantasy mixed up with reality. Their imaginations go and they love to make "stories" up. Also, I tried hard to not use the word "lie" or "liar" with my children. If they told an untruth to a question I would ask, I would gently remind them, "It's important to always tell the truth."

    I think the main key to teaching honesty, like you mentioned, is to teach them about God. Oh, and I love how you said our kids will probably never be more honest than we are!

  2. I'm enjoying reading through your blog. I was thinking about honesty today at the supermarket. I took a small amount of groceries through the self checkout line. We were leaving the register and I realized my daughter had an avocado in her lap we hadn't paid for. I said - "better do the honest thing" and turned around to pay for it. It wasn't the "easier" thing to do - I had to go back and get my wallet back out again after all. She's only 2 but I knew small things like that as well as large things will make a difference.


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