How to Raise an Honest Kid

gilbert_stuart_williamstown_portrait_of_george_washingtonKids lie. It’s a part of growing up, and if you’re thinking, “Not my kid!” research shows that parents do not really know when their child is lying. While we all want to have our children grow up to be honest, we also know that we can’t just say don’t lie because we all have told a little white lie to be polite or to protect someone’s feelings.

In Kang Lee’s TED Talk, he notes that in order to tell a lie, a child has to have reached two critical developmental milestones: a theory of mind and self-control. Theory of mind means that a child can understand that different people know different things, and the basis of lying is “knowing that I know that you don’t know what I know.” Self-control means that a child can control their speech, facial expression, and body language when telling a lie. Both of these skills are critical to being a successful adult, and lack of these skills are often part of disorders like autism (theory of mind) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (self-control).

Great Schools has created an infographic on raising honest kids. Among the research highlighted in the graphic is that positivity supports honesty. Children are more likely to tell the truth if they are told they will not be punished than if they are told they will be punished. In addition, children were more likely to tell the truth if they heard a positive story about doing so (e.g., George Washington and the cherry tree) than a negative story about telling the truth (e.g., the boy who cried wolf).

Great Schools also developed a list of 12 tips to help raise an honest child. They are:

  1. Model honesty.
  2. Don’t set them up.
  3. Tell positive stories.
  4. Ask for a promise.
  5. Say truth-telling makes you happy.
  6. Teach tact.
  7. Don’t reward the lie.
  8. Catch them being honest.
  9. Discipline calmly.
  10. Have a conversation, not a lecture.
  11. Set clear rules.
  12. Give them space.

The Great Schools article goes into depth on each of these points, so be sure to follow the link to find out more.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.