Guiding Children on the Correct Honesty Path

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By Gilbert Mbewe

I’m sure we all want our kids to be honest, not to cheat, lying, sneak, cover up or steal. Like I always say it is our obligation as parents to teach our kids the value that we want them to grow up with and honesty is one of those important values. Children need to learn the value of honest; their future could depend on it.

Thomas Jefferson once wrote “Honesty is the first chapter of the book of wisdom”. Teaching children the values of honesty is an important duty that requires a great deal of patience.

It isn’t as simple as teaching them to tie their shoes, where they understand the basic concept after a few lessons. You’ll have to keep hammering away at these lessons for a long time.

There are many useful tips that parents can use to teach their children the value of honesty. But before we look at that let us try to understand the meaning of the word honest.

Many parents including our children think honesty means you “don’t tell a lie” and that is definitely part of being honest. But honesty means more than not lying. A more complete definition of honesty shows that an honest person doesn’t do things that are morally wrong.

For example if something you do is breaking the law or if you have to hide what you are doing because you’ll get in trouble, you are probably not being honest. So, honesty is about being open, speaking and acting truthfully. It’s about matching our words and our deeds.

There are different ways to show you are honest. One way is to be sincere. Being sincere is being honest and truthful about what you think and feel, even if other people disagree with you. Agreeing with people just to be liked is insincere.

Being fair is another way to show that you are an honest person. This means you are committed to doing the right thing, even if it would be easier not to do anything. The third way to show you are an honest person is to be trustworthy.

Trustworthy people follow the rules and do what they say they will do. If they make a mistake, they admit it and accept the consequences. You do not have to be perfect to be trustworthy; you just have to be honest.

Now here are a few ideas to help guide your children on the correct honesty path:

Be firm on honesty and gentle on your kids:

Some parents might believe it’s in a child’s nature to lie, so when a child lies they say he/she is it a child. Still others believe it’s the parent’s responsibility to punish dishonesty to prevent it from taking over.

Actually this belief makes you parents to set your kids up to lie. Punishing dishonest is a good idea, but encourages your kids to lie even more. If you’re harsh and punitive, children will be afraid to tell you the truth, when they done something wrong.

They will lie to avoid being punished.  But if you make it safe for them, they will be honest. So be firm on honesty and gentle on your kids.

Praise truth telling.

When your child does tell the truth, reward him/her with praise. It is more important to reward honesty than to punish lying. Rewarding your kids can prove to be great stimulus to their learning of the value of honesty. If you reward them, they’ll start to associate honesty as something positive. This will help create a trustful environment within your household.

Set a good example.

The best way to teach honesty is to be honest. As a parent you should avoid lying to your kids. It’s better to admit that some things are hard to talk about than to try to cover them up. If you are honest, your children will also be honest. You shouldn’t let your children hear you lying; this does not mean you can lie in their absence. Parent are the model that their children follow, therefore a lot will depend to a large extent on a parent’s behavior.

As your children grow up it is important for them to understand the value of honest. It is important for them to realize that being dishonest prevents you from helping them in the most appropriate way. Therefore you must make every effort to raise honest children. This wouldn’t be any easy task. Patience, trust and being a role model are the best tools you have to achieve honesty at home.

The author is a pastor in the Reformed church of Zambia, and serving at Kalichero congregation in the Eastern Province.  He is  also a psycho social  counsellor and currently studying at the The Protestant Theological University in Netherlands. 

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