Social Question

Cupcake's avatar

How do you teach your children to tell the truth?

Asked by Cupcake (15341points) December 16th, 2009
50 responses
“Great Question” (9points)

How important of a family value is honesty to you? How do you instill that value in your children? How does it affect rewards/punishments? Do your kids get punished if they do something wrong, but tell the truth about it? Do they get punished more if they lie?

Do you expect people to tell lies? Do you lie to your children?

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CMaz's avatar

It is really a matter of them knowing (learning) the difference.

Silhouette's avatar

By example.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

Model the behavior you want them to emulate.

LeotCol's avatar

Give them cue cards with some things that are obvious wrong, and some that are obviously true (“the sky is brown” and “the sky is blue”). Tell them to read them out. If they read out the untrue ones, flick pennies at them

Cupcake's avatar

Interesting tactic @LeotCol.

dpworkin's avatar

You don’t, really. Lying is adaptive, and young children learn to lie very early. You and I lie every day. Life would be intolerable without lies.

Cupcake's avatar

So @pdworkin you lie to your kids and expect them to lie to you?

dpworkin's avatar

Of course. So do you. If you say you don’t you will be lying to us.

Jacket's avatar

I have to agree with @pdworkin there. They learn early. The trick is to learn when lying is accepted and when it’s not.
Parents lie a lot to children, but pretend it’s not so. Instead of explaining things they won’t understand many seem to make up an easy explanation or just to shut them up. When mommy is wrong and when she lies would make little difference to a kid.
Parents also use “white lies” or spice stories when talking to other people when children are present. They know that what mommy said wasn’t exactly true.

Cupcake's avatar

I’m unfamiliar with this concept of lying to your children. I was raised by parents who both place extremely high value on honesty. “I’m not going to tell you”, “that’s none of your business”, “ask me when you’re older” or “I’m not comfortable discussing that right now” were used instead of lies.

Certainly we’ve all learned to tell things that are not completely true, but that doesn’t mean that we value telling untruths. I value the truth. I expect it from others. Have I only told the complete truth 100% of the time? No. But that’s my standard, and my standard for my family.

Jacket's avatar

@Cupcake You have never said that you don’t have time for something, that you could make time for?

dpworkin's avatar

@Cupcake In my view there are only two possibilities: 1) You haven’t thought this through very well, or, 2) You are lying to yourself.

CaptainHarley's avatar

By example, and by explaining that most human interaction that turns out ok is based on truth, and by making the point that it’s easier to keep track of things you don’t tell as opposed to the lies you might.

JLeslie's avatar

I think this is a great question. The truth is we need to teach children when it appropriate to lie. Otherwise we are sending mixed messages.

jerv's avatar

@JLeslie I actually had to learn how to lie.

Cupcake's avatar

@Jacket I would say “I would prefer we do that tomorrow”. Why lie? Why would I intentionally tell something that is untrue to my child?

Cupcake's avatar

@JLeslie – Interesting point. When do you think it is appropriate for children/adults to lie? How would you teach that?

dpworkin's avatar

@cupcake: Santa Claus? Grandma’s dying? Those dogs are fucking? I love your brother more than I love you? Your father was a bum and a drunk? Because I have my period, that’s why?

Cupcake's avatar

I don’t do Santa.
Grandma is dying.
The dogs are having sex and will eventually have puppies.
So far I only have 1 kid… but each child has special qualities that I love and appreciate in them.
His father is absent and has poor morals.
I have my period and my hormones are a little out of control, I’m sorry for yelling.

Cupcake's avatar

GA by the way @pdworkin

JLeslie's avatar

I just think it is very appropriate to lie in certain circumstances. I was taught to lie for safety reasons. If a stranger comes to the door I was to say my mom is not able to come to the door right now, not she isn’t home, even if the truth is she was not home. Children witness adults telling fibs all of the time to protect other people’s feelings or make others feel good.

Plus, I recently told my neice if she feels peer pressure and does not feel able to go against it to lie if she has to. When I was in high school I used to tell friends I already drank at home when they were trying to get me to drink so they would shut up. As I got older I became more confident in saying, “no, I don’t drink.” Or, there were times I said my mom would not let me go, to save face. I don’t see those lies as very damaging. I would also point out that I pretty much was very honest and open with my mom, I told her everything. It was not confusing to me.

I also perceived my parents as being very open and honest with each other, so I think that was a model I follow in adult relationships. You get what you give most of the time.

I think of myself as a very honest person. I cannot imagine lying to my husband or a friend, or hiding something. I have nothing to hide.

Val123's avatar

Well, by example of course, but the times going to come when they’re going to try a lie out on you. If you are 100% sure they are lying, it’s time for some seriously uncomfortable discipline.

And yes, they still get in trouble if they tell the truth, but if they’d had a problem about lying instead in the past I’ll point out, “OK. You’ve got 10 minutes in time out, but you know what? If you had lied to me, you would have had 10 minutes in time out AND a spankin’!”

Pandora's avatar

We teach them through the following.
Never make a promise you cannot keep. If I was unsure about whether I would be able to keep a promise, I would tell my children it was a maybe and the reasons why it may be a maybe. Lets say, they wanted to go to the park later but I heard it may rain by then. So I would tell them maybe depending on weather conditions.
I would reward them for telling the truth by lessening the punishment. Lets say they did something wrong. If I asked them and they lied, then instead of just having time out then they would also have tv priveledges taken away for a whole day or even a week, depending on the severity.
But the biggest thing is promises. When you break a promise they remember and think of it as a lie from you. You must absolutely keep any firm promise you made and make it clear when it is a maybe and why. This worked for my kids. They learned that telling the truth and dealing with the consequenses was better than telling a lie.
I was always told by other parents how honest my kids were. However my son did turn out a little too honest for his own good. ;)

Cupcake's avatar

@JLeslie – I can totally wrap my head around that. Practical reasons for lying – safety. I agree with that. I don’t necessarily believe that you must lie in those circumstances, but I understand that and can see it as an option. Children would probably feel more safe and comfortable if they had those “lines” to pull out of their back pocket in certain circumstances.

JLeslie's avatar

@Cupcake Exactly, I consider them lines. The point is you cannot tell your kids to always tell the truth. You have to be specific and tell them to always tell YOU the truth, because you love them and will always help them no matter how bad the circumstance. And, then as I said, lead by example in your own relationships. Truth is the best way to be in a meaningful relationship, it is the only way to have happiness in my opinion. That is the real lesson.

Cruiser's avatar

First you never lie to them and second make sure the consequences for lying are far worse than what ever they might be had they told the truth and consistently apply that rule.

Also constantly reinforce this by highlighting real world examples of the negative consequences of lying.

john65pennington's avatar

You, as their parent, have to set the example. if a child hears profanity in the home, the child is going to repeat profanity out in the public. they feel if mom or dad does it, then its okay. wife and i handled the truth with our children this way. first, they were taught the difference between right and wrong at an early age. second, we taught them our Christian faith and to believe in the Bible. now, if an issue of telling the truth is brought up. we reach for the Bible. their hand is placed on the Bible for the truth and it has worked liked a charm. your children are what you teach them. how a parent arrives at the truth is as individual as a persons DNA.

JustPlainBarb's avatar

Parents should set a good example .. kids learn by example. They also need to know there are consequences for bad behavior in life. They need to know that rules are to be respected and followed. If you feel a rule or a law isn’t fair, you try to change that in a responsible way, not ignore it or blatantly break it. Teaching them to be a respectful and productive citizen will serve them well all throughout their lives.

jerv's avatar

@ABJustPlainBarb Unfortunately, that is exactly opposite of how to succeed in 21st-century America. Kind of a sad commentary on our culture, eh?

SirGoofy's avatar

Keep all your verbal promises to them, but don’t make verbal promises you know that you can never keep. Don’t let them catch you in a lie more than once.

Val123's avatar

@SirGoofy Uh…I think them catching you in a lie even one time is all it takes for life. Your statement also seems to imply “If they catch you once, you need to start hiding your lies better.” That’s not what you meant, right?

Naked_Homer's avatar

I respect others not doing the Santa, tooth fairy thing. I grew up fully enjoying the belief in Santa Clause and also knowing about what those dogs were doing. Understanding that my grandpa was dying and that the tooth fairy was coming. And when I got old enough I figured the Santa and Tooth thing out and was not traumatized at all but was growing into a different phase of my childhood where such things didn’t matter as much. The world is thrust upon us all to soon.

I am raising my kids the same way and I sleep just fine. If I promise my kids something I deliver no matter the cost to me. Also, if they do something wrong, they are 7 and 4, right now I am taking extra caution to show them the importance of telling us the truth. Telling us right away in case we can fix it (broken toy or some one hurt). Also that we may be mad or disappointed if they new better, or that accidents happen and that we will always love them.

Cupcake's avatar

@Naked_Homer I have a similar approach. I really appreciate honesty from my son. I make it clear that punishments will be more harsh if there is lying involved. He is 13 and we are working on being able to discuss anything so that I can help him through the rough times that will come ahead in his adolescence.

My job as a parent isn’t to be an overbearing, judgmental, punitive demon. My job is to guide him down a path that I respect and follow to the best of my ability and help him develop skills so that he can continue down a good path in his adulthood.

He and I were just talking a couple days ago about the upcoming pressure to smoke, drink, do drugs and have sex. I hope that by being open and honest with him, that I am approachable when he needs someone to talk to.

Payton_Evil_is_as_evil_does's avatar

I find that if you hook electrodes up to their ears they are surprisingly truthful with you. I’ve only had to hit the button twice.

Val123's avatar

Shock collar!!

Naked_Homer's avatar

@Cupcake – ditto that. I try to show them that it’s a discussion.

thriftymaid's avatar

Be a truthful person yourself; they learn from observing your behavior.

HighShaman's avatar

I believe that children learn from those around them . If you set the example of telling the truth and being honest ; then the children will be honest and truthful also….

Millenium_TheMysteriousM's avatar

By assuring them that if you find out they’re LYING about anything. . . . . . . .the recriminations for THAT will be FAR WORSE than telling the truth!

Shegrin's avatar

Lead by example and thell them WHY choices are necessary. If they ask you about it, they are ready to know the real deal.

iRemy_y's avatar

Well when i was a kid my dad would wash my mouth with soap if i ever told even a white lie. it worked for him

cornbird's avatar

By letting them know how important trust is between you and the child, and also by being a good role model by not lying to them. Some parents like to manipulate their children to behave better or promise them things to win their affection. This is not the way. By always being straight with them and being straight with others you will automatically teach your children to be truthfull. Also when they lie let them know how much it will hurt you and that will make them think twice about lying.

Blondesjon's avatar

I beat them when they lie.

YARNLADY's avatar

Liars simply cannot accept the fact that there are people who actually do not lie. It is partly a definition, where they will insist that not telling someone everything that is on your mind is a form of lying by omission, and partly because they cannot conceive of actually telling the truth every time.

When my oldest son was diagnosed as being a compulsive liar, I made the choice and decision that I will never tell a lie, not a little white lie, not a feel good lie, no more lying, and I have stuck to that ever since, for over 40 years.

Lying is a choice that people can stop any time they want. It is strictly a matter of self control. even with a personality disorder, lying can be directed into a more acceptable method. Children can see that it is easy to be deceitful, and they can also learn that it is not acceptable behavior, just like screaming or running into the street.

Poopy's avatar

Truth does not release you from the consequences of your behavior.

JLeslie's avatar

I was thinking about this more. Kid are probably going to lie and omit certain things towards their parents. I was very open with my mom, but still told a lie or two growing up. I really think the “lead by example” idea is the best, because then our children are more likely to be honest and have integrity in adulthood. Kids usually grow up to be their parents more or less.

fireside's avatar

So…telling them that their nose will grow every time they tell a lie is the wrong approach?

EdMayhew's avatar

Read them German bedtime stories. That should scare them into being honest. But they might start wetting the bed again.


AnonymousWoman's avatar

The first step to teaching your children to be honest is to be honest yourself. Encourage open communication and don’t get angry at your children for telling you the truth. Don’t snap at them when they just ask you a question. Actually take the time to listen to them and understand them. Let them know that their opinion matters. My parents have succeeded in raising me to be honest except for one very vital issue. BOYS. I’m not allowed to date to the point that I feel like my father will not approve of anyone. I hide my relationships from him for this reason. What would cause me to be more honest with him about them? If he actually let me date and gave the guys I date a chance. Since I feel that he won’t, I see no reason to bring them over or even introduce them to anyone in my family. It’s very weird and complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. I wish I didn’t feel the need to hide my relationships. I wish I could be open about them, but I don’t feel that I can be without getting in trouble.

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