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January 16, 2019

Teaching Your Kids to Tell the Truth

It is the desire of most parents to raise honest children. Children who choose the truth over lies. However, we all know that this does not come easy. Being truthful always is a great challenge because even we as adults struggle with it. Honesty doesn’t come naturally to many people. So, if honesty is difficult for adults, how then, do we try and help children learn to tell the truth always? Is there any formula to this?

Well, I’m not sure about a formula, but what I know is that there are some things that parents can do to help inculcate the virtue of honesty in children.

For example, when suspicious about their child’s activity, parents should be very cautious in their approach. Take the example of a parent who finds his child with some candy.

The conversation goes like this:

“John! (In a menacing voice) Where did you get that sweet from? I know I did not buy it for you, and neither did your mum. Haven't I told you many times that I don’t want you eating sweets because they’ll spoil your teeth? But you don’t seem to listen. Now, you better say where you got that sweet from or else I will give you a thorough beating.”

Cornered, intimidated and scared, the child is by that time probably wetting his pants. Do you think he’ll tell the truth? Most likely he’ll say he doesn’t know where he got the sweet from, or that he did not get it from anywhere. For the child, honesty here is not an option. He feels much safer telling a lie.

Now take this other scenario:

“John (in a calm voice), I can see you have a sweet. Remember sweets can cause your teeth to decay, that’s why your mother and I don’t like it when you eat sweets. Mind telling me where you got the sweet from? Did one of your classmates have a birthday in school where he shared his sweets with the rest of the class?”

In this second scenario, chances are that the child might say the truth. If he feels safe enough to know that his father is willing to listen to him, then honesty is a likely option.

Also, in the first scenario, there doesn’t seem any chance for dialogue between father and son. Regardless of the child’s response, the father appears already set to beat the child anyway. After the beating, the child may be sent away to the bedroom and there will be no conversation after that. This child will most likely develop more crafty ways to make sure he doesn’t get caught next time, or if he does, how to escape a beating.

However, the second scenario presents room for dialogue. While doing so, it will provide the parent an opportunity to talk to the child about speaking the truth.

Parents should know that threats or beatings do not necessarily lead to honest children; it may only lead to more cunning children. Parents should strive to let their children know that there are many more benefits to being truthful as opposed to telling lies. And even when there may be a punishment for wrongdoing, the emphasis should be on honesty, not the punishment.

It takes a lot of courage to tell the truth, regardless of whether you are a child, an adult or an elderly citizen. In many cases, it’s always tempting to tell a ‘white lie’, especially when the other person will never know that a lie was told. But this is what will make us raise a generation of children whose ‘success’ is achieved through cutting corners, rather than working hard for it.  

Regardless of the imminent consequences, it is best to teach your child to choose the honesty option. And don’t forget to lead by example.

The writer is a lifestyle writer and motherhood blogger. Follow her blog on

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