Training our kids to be honest is long, hard work. We must be committed to this lesson for the duration of our parenting. Honesty is the key to all healthy relationships, and our kids need to become instinctively honest people. This objective will NOT happen overnight. Bottom line, you can't solve a 7000day problem in one day. So, we parents have to know how to train our kids in this vital area of life.
Here is my Top 10 list for training kids to be honest. I explained this list in detail in the Tightrope message from Sunday, February 25th. If you missed it, you can watch it here.
1. Model Honesty. Parents must lead by example in the home. The saying is true that values are more caught than taught. Never underestimate the example you model before your kids.
2. Expect honesty and provide mercy. Assure your kids they can tell you anything. But, be sure you mean it. We must create an expectation for honesty in an environment of mercy. Especially when they are young, there is a need to provide a safe environment to lie, get caught and confess. Proverbs 28:13 “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” When our kids freely or finally confess, mercy (not necessarily absent of consequences) should be given. If we have an unsafe environment, we will reinforce hiding and concealing.
3. Probe for the whole truth. When discussing issues, ask questions like, “Is there anything else?” You want them to feel in control of their information and willingly give it to you. Don’t underestimate the “I got away with something sensation.” We all had to test these waters. There is a thrill associated with getting away with a lie. Then fear sets in, and we start that downward spiral of the chain of lies. We must give our kids a chance to come clean and give the truth. Probe your kids for the whole truth!
4. Don’t take it personally. As parents, you must recognize that your kids are supposed to learn the limits under your care. Your goal is training. It is easy to overreact out of our sense of woundedness because we thought our kids trusted us. Get a clue! You are mom or dad – they will eventually distrust you. When we overreact we end up trying to solve a 7000day problem in one day. Taking it personally and overreacting will almost always make things worse.
5. Give them vision for honesty (and dishonesty). Dishonesty always hurts relationships, and honesty always helps relationships. Help them develop a positive vision for honesty. This is where God’s Word can be helpful. A good name: Proverbs 22:1A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold. Part of training kids is helping them make the connection that decisions now are connected to outcomes later.
6. Trust as long as you can. If they say it’s the truth, believe them at first. Let the circumstances play out. If/when the lies come to light – and lies always come to light – they will have to receive the consequences of dishonesty. Your kids need to feel what it's like to be trusted so that when trust is broken, they recognize the loss.
7. Don’t make empty promises. We've all done it; we tell our kids that if they tell the truth, they won't get in trouble. Sometimes their choices get them into trouble. Don't make an empty promise. It is better to tell them that telling the whole truth will never cause you to stop loving them. That is true. Sometimes the truth demands consequences.
8. Deliver necessary consequences. Dishonesty breaks trust, and because there is broken trust, we take steps back in privileges and responsibilities. When there is trust, privileges, freedoms and responsibilities can grow. When there is distrust those privileges, freedoms and responsibilities shrink. When we apply consequences to dishonesty, we make dishonesty less attractive and protect the honesty that preserves our relationship with our children. Make your kids pay for dishonesty NOW while you are there to support them. The big bad world isn’t so kind to the dishonest.
9. Re-communicate your unconditional love. There is a HUGE difference in broken truth and broken love. Our kids need to know they are loved no matter what the offense. A broken trust should never cost the removal of our love.
10. Intentionally rebuild trust. If/when trust is broken, you will have to create a way for your child to rebuild trust and confidence with you. You must devise ways for your kids to show trustworthiness and re-earn trust. If you close this door, you will demoralize your kids. There must ALWAYS be a plan to rebuild broken trust. This honors the relationship and shows value to your kids that you believe they can be and should be an honest and trustworthy person.
These are important steps surrounding an important issue. I hope this helps equip you as you trek through your 7000days!
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