It takes a lot of courage to be honest and tell the truth. Why? Because honesty and truthfulness don’t come naturally. It’s confusing to kids. They often hear parents being dishonest and lying about important things and think it’s okay not to tell the truth. Or, it can be as easy as a parent asking, “Did you finish your homework?” And having the child answer, “Yes, I did,” or “No, I didn’t.”
Being honest is difficult, especially if the child thinks it will upset a parent or make them mad. How would you handle a situation when you’ve discovered you’re your eight-year-old son has stolen a pack of gum from the grocery store. There are essentially two directions a parent can take.
Father: Tommy, Where did you get that gum?
Tommy: I found it in my pocket.
Father: Did you steal it from the store we just left?
Tommy: No, I didn’t!
Father: Your brother told me that he saw you take it and hide it in your pocket. So, now you’re lying to me?
Tommy: No, I’m not lying! I didn’t steal it.
Father: You know we don’t keep gum in the house, so if you didn’t steal it, where did you get it?
Father: I see that you have some gum. But I don’t remember buying any gum for you, and your brother just told me that he saw you take it off the display when we were in the store.
Tommy: (Tommy looks down)
Father: I don’t believe in ratting on each other, and I’ve told that to your brother. But it’s essential that we do not steal. And it’s equally important that we don’t lie to one another. You know our family values honesty because we’ve discussed it many times. I want you to trust me, and I want to trust you.
Tommy: I’m sorry, Dad. I didn’t mean to take the gum. It just happened.
Father: I know, Tommy. The temptation is so great, and it’s hard to resist. However, I’m proud of you for telling the truth. Sometimes, that’s the hardest thing to do, and I appreciate your being honest. Now, let’s go back to the grocery store. I’ll be at your side when you return the gum and pay for it.
In this first scenario, the father is pushing Tommy up against the wall and almost defying him to tell the truth. In most instances, Tommy will immediately deny, or lie because it’s humiliating. In the second scenario, the father takes the issue off the table by acknowledging that he knows Tommy took the gum. Now the father can focus on the importance of being truthful, talk about honesty as a family value, show that he understands the temptation and teach Tommy a lesson in integrity.
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Steve Doherty and Larry Sanford
Little Tiger Series™
P.O. Box 1081
New Albany, OH 43054