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Teaching Children to Tell the Truth

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Teaching children to tell the truth is one of the most important mothering jobs you'll ever accomplish.

Do you have a child who is currently worrying you with his or her lying habit?

Straightforward steps to teaching your child to tell the truth.

1. Make character development the centerpiece of your home.
What you sow, you reap. Make totally sure you are sowing what you want to reap in your family.

2. Keep communication open and at a high level with your child. They must feel safe to talk to you and know you won't over-react if.

3. Set boundaries for behavior, including lying, and enforce those boundaries firmly and lovingly.  Praise your kids for telling the truth and explain why trust is SO important.

Need backup help? Everyone does and here are some great resources from proven parenting sources:

Brian Tracy's cd series How to raise happy healthy self-confident children. There are about 6 hours of high-quality parenting wisdom in this audio package. Brian's program is a great one to help you with character development and that long-term road map. Look it over here.


James Lehman's The Total Transformation parenting program has helped hundreds of families who are experiencing challenges such as lying. This program will help you know what to say and do when your child acts out in various ways.

Having a child who lies to you, whether occasionally or habitually, can be a scary thing.

I understand. I have four children of my own. Being the human beings they are, they have certainly engaged in "avoiding" telling me the truth from time to time. I hated the feelings of distrust those situations generated. And I agonized about whether this problem would be a once-in-awhile mistake for my child or a pattern of deceitful behavior.
  • Do you feel the same way? If so, you'll want to keep reading. I'm going to share with you the foundational principles I have learned over the past 27+ years of parenting. I'll also share with you the tools I have discovered that can really help as you are guiding your precious little one into a lifetime of truth-telling.

Key philosophy in teaching children to tell the truth.

** Raising kids in a character-driven home is the #1 most important thing you can do to produce children who tell the truth.**

Hands down. Period. No question about it.

Read that sentence again if you need to. Drill it into your brain. Write it on the back of your hand. Repeat it when you wake up, when you eat your meals, when you hug your kids and when you go to bed at night. It's THAT important.

Why is it that important? Because all behavior flows from our values. There is no mystery here. This is a simple example of an age-old principle:

** What you sow you will reap. **

So, if as a parent you want to 'reap' truthtelling in your children, you need to begin 'sowing' that character trait. Today.

You want to center your home around the types of character traits you want to teach your child.

Consider all these positive character traits:
  • truthfulness and honesty
  • self-control and discipline
  • kindness
  • generosity
  • forgiveness
  • joy
  • contentment
  • positive drive and ambition
  • respect
  • humility
  • patience
  • endurance
  • gratitude
Of course, this is only a partial list. I'm sure you can think of additional character traits you believe are valuable, besides teaching children to tell the truth. Also, each child has their own natural gifts in these areas and helping them recognize and develop those gifts is one of a parent's greatest pleasures.

(This may sound like it works best if you parent this way from when your child is small. And you are right. However, these ideas will work at any stage, even when you are parenting a teenager.)

Here are some proven ways of sowing - teaching - children to tell the truth, as well as these other vital positive character traits.

These are not original with me, believe me. I spent years searching, observing behavior and learning. Here are the nuggets distilled for your mothering needs.
  • Make a road map for your family.
If you want to teach your children to tell the truth, how are you going to get there? You need a plan and you need to know what tools you'll need along the way. You need to know how to measure your progress and when to make adjustments. I know this sounds like a lot, but you are probably already doing quite a bit of this. What I've found is that the key in this process is intentionality. In other words,

==> decide what kind of adult you'd like to raise. What are the character traits of that adult? Write them down.
==> what types of activities and conversations will help develop those character traits? Look for books, courses, churches, and people who can help you achieve this goal.

If all this makes sense to you, great. Go for it! However, if you're like most parents (and certainly I felt this way the first years of parenting my kids), you could use some concrete help with these ideas. If that's the case, I recommend you run - not walk - and pick up one or both of these parenting resources.
  1. Brian Tracy's cd course How to raise happy healthy self-confident children. Brian has a gift for clarity in teaching plus he emphasizes character development, as do I. He has taught thousands of individuals and companies how to be successful and in this course he has applied his success knowledge to what he has learned raising his own four children. His children are reaching adulthood now, like mine, and he is reaping what he has sowed, which is why I can heartily recommend this course to you.
  2. James Lehman's The Total Transformation This parenting resource is for you if you like extremely practical, concrete helps and you are looking for high value. Lehman was a troubled youth himself and his parenting program is especially designed for families dealing with discipline and focus challenges.
Later on, I'll give you more ideas about how to use these tools effectively.

  • Walk the talk
Alright, mom, I'm going to give this parenting tip to you straight. If the adults (and that includes older children) in your home are not walking the talk, in other words, telling the truth as a matter of course, then it's going to extremely difficult to teach your child to tell the truth. And rightfully so. Parenting is all about modeling (another example where you 'sow' behavior, your child watches and mimics your behavior and over time 'reaps' the character trait of truthfulness into himself). Humans are hardwired that way, so you can't change how the process works.

So, if teaching children to tell the truth is important to you, you'll look long and hard at how truth is used or abused in your home. Enough said.

  • Open communication.
When you catch your child not telling the truth, what is your immediate reaction? Are you calm? Or do you get upset? It's important you understand how you react to your child's lying, because your child already knows exactly how you respond and she is basing her behavior on your reaction.

For example, have you ever heard these words from your child?

"I was scared to tell you."

I certainly have heard those words in my home. They became a signal to me that sometimes my child was frightened of my reaction and therefore did not tell me the truth, even when she wanted to.

And who can blame kids for that? Who wants to get in trouble? When a little lie can make everything all better...that's what's going through your child's mind. As a parent, we have to be extremely careful we are open to hearing anything from our child. Anything. As long as it's the truth.

The rule in our home is that lying about something ALWAYS makes the original problem worse. And telling the truth, especially when it's hard, proves to us as parents that even though our child may have made a mistake, they are taking responsibility for it. That's an awesome character trait and one we praise regularly. The lesson here is it's way better to face up to the original problem and be responsible. But kids can only do that if telling the truth is a safe thing to do. Sure, my kids made mistakes and didn't want me to find out about it. However, once they discovered I wouldn't yell, scream, or over-react, but instead would want to honestly work things out with them, they found it safer (and easier) to tell me the truth.

The day my daughter told me "I was going to not tell you about this (problem), but then I realized that while you would be unhappy with me, you'd also help me fix it. And you would still love me. So I knew I could tell you" was the day I knew I was making progress. So hang in there! You're aiming for improvement, not perfection.

  • Set boundaries and enforce them.
Certainly, as in all parenting, when teaching children to tell the truth, you'll need to set reasonable boundaries and be ready to enforce them. Some kids are naturals are pushing boundaries and that's fine. As a parent, you need to become an expert at enforcing the boundaries you set in your home. When our kids were caught in a lie, there were consequences. We aimed to:

==> be matter-of-fact.
==> remove privileges.
==> be age appropriate.
==> provide a way to earn back the trust.
==> allow the child to practice problem solving skills in the situation. What could they have done differently? What were their fears and how could those fears be addressed? Listening to your child in this manner builds trust. A trusting relationship means your child will be more reluctant to lie to you in the future. You're working at developing a conscience here.

  • Reinforce all of this teaching with an effective, supportive environment.
While teaching our children to tell the truth, I considered who they were spending their time with and what they were learning when they were outside of my care. Obviously, you can't isolate your children from all negative influences, but you definitely need to tip the balance in their favor. This is where effective tools can come into play. Tools such as...

** schools.
** clubs like scouting.
** worship communities.
** friends for your child who are being raised in families with similar values to your own.
** social activities and hobbies that reflect your family's values and support your character training. That includes TV, movies, music, books and video games!! If they don't support your family's values, why are you allowing them in your home or in your child's sphere of influence? Mom, you are in charge! Over time, kids need to know how to handle influences that don't support the family's values, but that influence should be regulated by you, the parent, not just happen as a matter of course.

Use all of these things as teaching tools for your children. Be aware of the influences on your child and talk about those influences with your child as he grows. Teach him to make excellent choices that will reinforce his values as he grows, not make it harder for him to do the right things in life.

==> I promised I would give you helps on using parenting tools. It doesn't matter whether you do your own research or pay for someone else's expertise, these tips will help you get the most out of your parenting resources.

  • Treat the tool like a class. Believe me, your kids will test you on what you have learned!
  • Use it! Listen to or read it multiple times.
  • Take notes.
  • Consider the information in light of your own family circumstances. Be specific about what you can apply.
  • Learn to disregard irrelevant information and dig for the gold nuggets that can really make a difference for you.
  • Listen or go back to the information again and again over time. You will hear different things when you are at different parenting stages!
  • Take action! Pick out one nugget of information and try it for 30 days. Take note of what works and what doesn't. Make adjustments until you see improvement. Try to stick to one change at a time.
Teaching children to tell the truth is extremely important and something you have great influence over. While you can't guarantee your child will never lie again, you can guide your child into such an appreciation of living a life of high character that he can understand that activities like lying are hurting him, not helping him. (For more parenting ideas, see my 10 parenting tips article. If you know of parents just starting out, you may want to refer them to my article covering words of wisdom for new parents.)

Raising kids means working hard at times. However, I have found that setting up a strong foundation of quality character values means less work as time goes on. My best to you and your precious family!

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