Raising Honest Kids

by James Rudy Gray

Honesty is the best policy" is a constantly-challenged statement in our culture today. Honesty seems to be a forgotten virtue. Furthermore, the impulse to try to lie one's way out of trouble or blame is a built-in proclivity in human nature, and Christian kids are no exception.

How are parents supposed to train up a child in a culture where dishonesty is so common? The way we live as parents, the rules we set, and the discipline we enforce are important keys in effectively dealing with dishonesty. As our daughters were growing up, we taught them that honesty was right and that any lie told to cover up a wrong was worse than the wrong it was covering up.

Cynthia Whitham, a secular therapist at the UCLA Parent Training program, wrote a book entitled, The Answer Is No: Saying It And Sticking To It. In that book she cites five principles for handling children when they lie. Her suggestions do not contradict biblical principles but rather enforce them:

1. Do not interrogate. Deal with the issue.

2. Consequences should follow when the child has lied.

3. Consequences should be doubled when the child lies to cover up misbehavior.

4. Do not debate or argue with the child when you are sure he or she is lying.

5. Teach the child that lying causes people to distrust you.

"Do as I Do," not "Do as I Say"

Beyond teaching their children to tell the truth, parents themselves must be honest and must consistently live and enforce the rule of honesty in the home. When parents are not consistent, kids often grow up with an abiding and gnawing sense of insecurity. Parents who consistently live and teach godly values help cultivate a degree of security in their children.

Kids can be so cute. Parents can find it easy to overlook their childish wrongs or little lies that seem so innocent. But lying is wrong. Holding children accountable is important. Saying "no" is not negative when it is an enforcement of positive values and behaviors.

Kids must be shown the way and taught the way. Whitham says, "Face it, folks, we can't leave them to their own devices." Proverbs 6:17 says that God hates a lying tongue. Proverbs 13:24 says: "He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently." Discipline is more than simply punishing wrong behavior. It involves training in right behavior.

The key is caring enough to stand firm...living the truth in love.