Lying seems to be an acceptable form of communication these days – but what are the fruits of this? As parents we must not lie to our children, not even just a little white lie – it will only ever bring forth mistrust and more lies.
There is a good reason why “you shall not lie” is one of the Ten Commandments. It is something that must be taken seriously and dealt with quickly if and when children try to pull the wool over your eyes.
But you can’t possibly expect to have your children confess the truth to you if you lie to them. They will find out the hypocrisy of your speech and from that moment on the authority you have over your children will be damaged. Your children will lose respect for you, they will not trust you and they won’t feel compelled to be honest with you.
If you have been so conditioned by lies you might not see the harm lies cause. Lies could be so much a part of your life that you don’t even notice the difference between lies and truth any more. A simple little story of the “boy who cried wolf” is a good reminder of the harm lying can do, and it is a good place to start to teach children about the negative consequences of lying.
My children are not old enough yet to formulate pre-meditated lies. But the time will come when they will certainly try it. Even if they have never been exposed to lies from us as their parents, it is somehow built into our human nature to hide the truth especially if we fear punishment. So, I can guess that my children will lie when they get older. Now though, is the time to think about how I will deal with it, and how I can encourage my children to be honest in all things.
Here are some points I have come up with that I would like to try and remember to put into practice when the time comes to educate my children about the importance of honesty as a character trait.
- Teach my children basic biblical principles about truth and honesty. There are many encouraging scriptures to inspire an honest and truthful nature. For example Psalm 15:1-2 “LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart”.
- Take the time to explain the negative outcomes of lying. Run through the consequences of a lie verses the truth to highlight where the two paths lead. This must be done in the early days of lying so children learn from the beginning that they have a choice and it always works out in their favour to choose truth over lying. If they can learn to figure out the consequences of a choice, prior to making it, then it might help them with their decision making.
- Never let a lie go unpunished, no matter how old the lie is. It might be tedious, but with every lie, small or big, there should be time taken to punish and explain why lying was wrong. If a child lies and suffers no ill effects then lying will become habitual. See Proverbs 19:5 “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who speaks lies will not escape.”
- Practice honesty as an adult – be that positive example to your child, even in situations where you think the child isn’t paying attention. Being honest in your own conduct at all times demonstrates that peace of mind comes from having nothing to hide.
- Teach children that other wrong actions, such as stealing or coveting, often lead to lying. Wrong actions create a snowball of yet more wrong actions – with every action there is a consequence and as parents we should be actively involved in guiding our children with their decisions and actions.
- Make sure there is positive affirmation when your child is honest. Thank them for telling the truth and encourage them to be truthful in the future. Reward honesty as much as you would punish dishonesty. Be consistent in doing this so children find joy in pleasing you. Children want their parents to be pleased with them, so make sure you show them you are pleased with them when they display honest behaviour.
I have created a document to print for children to have on their bedroom wall or in their diaries. It contains some pertinent scriptures from the book of Proverbs that can be used to help them learn the importance of honesty.
It would pay for us parents to learn these scriptures too, as we are instructed to teach God’s laws to our children every day and in all situations, so knowing these scriptures is a helpful tool in raising honest children!