Life Skills – How to Teach Kids Honesty

Honesty is the best policy.  But when you think about it, we all lie sometimes.  It is hard to tell the truth all the time.  The reason people lie is because telling the truth will cause someone to be angry or sad.  That someone could be a person we know, or it could be ourselves. In this post I will go over how to teach kids honesty.

Teach kids honesty is the best policy
Teach kids honesty is the best policy

Telling the truth regardless of the outcome is always the right thing to do.  By not telling the truth, we will cause more pain, anger, and sadness in the long run.

While we need to always try and be honest to be a good example, we need to also remember to own up to our mistakes.  Often one lie will turn into several lies.  If you get caught in a lie, apologize, and try to make things right.  Learn from the mistake, move on, and don’t dwell on it.

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Unfortunately, there are many public figures these days that are consistently dishonest.  Their goal is to remain famous, wealthy, or powerful and will lie to maintain that.  While they may see some short-term success, being dishonest will catch up with them in the long run.  Remaining honest is a sure-fire way to long term success in life.

As I outlined in Part 1 of this series, the 4 steps to teaching kids life skills are: define the word, discuss what the definition means, use examples, and discuss why it is important.  If you need more detail on the process, please go back and read Part 1.

Let’s apply the process to honesty.

  • Define the word/topic in words they understand
    • Honesty means “Telling the truth at all times and not pretending to be someone you’re not.”
    • During this step, simply have the kids repeat the definition after you 3-5 times.  Do this 2-3 times during the week.
Lying is easier than being honest
Lying is easier than being honest
  • Discuss what the definition means in more detail
    • Be honest with yourself: being honest with yourself means to admit your successes as well as your failures.  To grow as a leader, you need to learn from your mistakes and accept your shortcomings.
    • Big lies vs. little lies: there is no such thing as a big lie or a little lie.  A lie is a lie.  Even if a lie seems like something small that no one will ever know about, there will be consequences eventually.  In addition, lies that we think are little often require more lies to keep the original lie going.  Before you know it, your one little lie turns into several big ones.
    • Lies are quick fixes: in the moment, a lie may seem like the best thing to do since it will give a quick fix to a problem.  We may avoid being in immediate trouble by telling a lie but in the long run, that lie will catch up to you and will result in being in more trouble than if you just told the truth in the first place.
    • During this step, have the kids repeat the definition after you 3-5 times then have a short discussion on the topics above.  Do this 2-3 time during the week.
  • Use examples in everyday life
    • Example of honesty in karate: there is a big belt test coming up in a week.  During classes leading up the test, your instructor asks you if you have been practicing your forms.  You tell him you have even though you have not.  You lied because you did not want your instructor to be mad at you.  By lying, you just make things worse.  When the belt test comes around, you are unprepared and that upsets your instructor even more.  If you would have told the truth initially, your instructor would have helped you by practicing with you. 
    • Example of honesty at school/home: when you get home from school, your parents ask you if you have any homework.  You tell them no, even though you do have homework.  Since you don’t want to do your homework, you lied.  You want to play with your friends, and you know that if you have homework to do, your parents won’t let you play.  The next day you get in trouble with your teacher for not doing your homework.  Your teacher then calls your parents and now you’re in trouble at home too.  If you told the truth initially, there’s a chance your parents would have helped you with your homework and you still would have had time to play with your friends.
    • During this step, have the kids repeat the definition after you 3-5 times then have a short discussion on the topics above.  Feel free to replace the examples with ones of your own.  Substitute a different activity for karate if they don’t practice karate.  Be sure to ask them for an example first before providing yours.  Do this 2-3 time during the week.
It is hard to teach kids honesty
It is hard to teach kids honesty
  • Discuss why it is important
    • Why is it important to be honest?  When you are a liar, no one will ever trust you.  You won’t have many friends.  If you can’t be counted on or trusted, people won’t want to be around you.  Being an honest person is an important trait to be successful in life.
    • During this step, briefly go over all steps 1-3 before going into this step.  Be sure to ask the kids why they think it is important before providing them with the answer.  Do this 2-3 times during the week.

Remember, it only takes less than 5 minutes, 2-3 times a week to go through these steps.  Feel free to comment or contact me with questions.

Stay tuned for my final post in this series which will be on how to teach kids about gratitude.

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