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Parenting Tip

November 8, 2013

Honesty Requires Character

Lying is a sign of a character weakness. It’s a shortcut. Greed and impulsiveness set a person up for dishonesty. A child who lies sacrifices a clear conscience for some kind of immediate gain. He exchanges godly values for a quick-fix solution. Here are three character qualities foundational for honesty.

First, children who succumb to lying often lack contentment. They seem to want more than they have and they want it fast. Contentment is the ability to be happy with what you have instead of longing for what you don’t have. It teaches a child to live within limits so that she is able to accept a no answer and not lie to get what she is not allowed to have. Unfortunately, contentment usually requires that parents be less permissive and say no more often. Parents see that saying no provokes anger and they believe that if they say yes more often than a child will avoid an anger problem. Unfortunately, indulgence doesn’t satisfy but often creates a desire for more and more, even resorting to dishonesty to get it.

A second character quality that helps a child learn to be honest is self-control. Children often lie impulsively because it’s easier. Children think if they lie, they can avoid negative consequences, so they say, “I didn’t do it.” Self-control helps a child think before speaking, evaluate what’s right, and respond with honesty rather than trying to take the easy way out. Controlling one’s impulses is a sign of maturity and will prevent some of the “spur of the moment” temptations to use deception to get something or to avoid consequences. Look for ways to help your kids develop the inner control necessary to be successful at handling temptation in life.

Responsibility is a third character quality that is necessary for developing honesty. It’s the ability to abide by family values even when no one is watching. That means children tell the truth even when no one will know the difference. Responsibility is taught with a short leash. Give small opportunities to be responsible and then talk about them. Check up on children who are sent to do a task. Inspect their work to see if they have done it thoroughly and completely. Praise them for a job well done. Point out early indications of responsibility and use them to build a sense of trustworthiness in life.

This parenting tip comes Chapter 8 in the book, Good and Angry, Exchanging Frustration for Character In You and Your Kids by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN. The chapter is entitled “Honesty: Giving the Gift of Integrity.”

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