“Don’t tell stories mamma.”
My son said in a tone that meant he had done something wrong. I told him that I was peeping from his classroom window when he was distracting the class during their writing period.
At five, he knows the difference between stories, lies, and truth which means that before children hit this age, parents should have begun lessons on honesty with them. But how do we do that?
Here are 5 ways to help teach your child about honesty:
1) Make an honesty chart
“Make a list of all the major things that comprise being honest,” says Dhara. She runs Montessori-style play classes in Ranchi and feels that making a decorative charts works well with children of all age groups.
“It is like making them learn things, but in a more artful manner,” she explains.
- Ask your child what he/she understands about being honest.
- Make a list of things that your child mentions.
- On a piece of chart enlist the relevant points from your child’s list and add a few of your own.
- As you write, explain every point adding age-appropriate examples wherever possible.
- Decorate and then hang the chart in an easy-to-view corner.
“These charts work as reminders plus reference. It’s a fun way to initiate the very weighty honesty talk with young children,” concludes Dhara.
2) Drama time
“Children love make-believe, don’t you agree?” asks Dhara.
She believes that dramatising situations adds a lot of value to what we’re trying to teach our children. They recognise events and situations as desirable or correct through positive actions. Drama also helps to display that dishonesty is not a very desirable attribute.
The classroom act
- Play the very simple game of teacher-teacher with your child.
- There will be a role reversal whereby you’ll be the child and your child will be the teacher.
- While enacting, try and hide from the child as you take a chocolate from the schoolbag and eat it.
- Inevitably, the acting-teacher will question you and you should make excuses.
After you’re done making excuses explain to your child that making excuses or being dishonest is not appreciated by all. Just like the child noticed your bad behaviour and excuses, in spite of merely acting as a teacher, dishonesty gets noticed by everyone.
“If you tell them light-heartedly, they listen and remember these lessons on honesty,” concludes Dhara.
3) Right or wrong?
“Talking about honesty and dishonesty, especially the difference between the two becomes easier if we base our explanations on reactions,” says Dhara.
What she means to say is that for every occasion, there’s a possible positive and a negative reaction. The positive reaction is mostly the honest one while the negative bends towards dishonesty.
To talk about reactions, this game of flashcards works well:
- Make flashcards that contain questions or situations. The child needs to come up with answers for these questions just like you would play a general knowledge quiz.
- For instance, a certain flashcard mentions the question “Your mamma asks you whether you have brushed your teeth before going to bed or not. What will be your response?’
- The child has to state the response that comes to his/her mind first. Ideally, the honest response.
- If the response is honest, he/she gets applause and a point. If the response is not very honest or is an excuse, then you get a chance to talk to your child about honest responses and also that telling the truth is always advisable.
“Do add that when your child tells the truth, even if you don’t like it, you will not scold him/her. This removes their fear of dire consequences on telling the truth” explains Dhara.
There! I have many questions popping up in my head for the flashcards meant for my son. How about you?
4) Be the judge
“I think children are inherently truthful and honest. Our reactions and the dishonesty around us teach them wrong things.”
Dhara has immense belief in the inherent honesty within kids.
Carolyn M Ball in her book Claiming Your Self Esteem talks about the same innate quality of honesty within kids. It is mostly fear and lack of example that leads them to dishonesty which slowly affects their self esteem.
I agree with Dhara when she says that if we, as parents, ask children for a correct way out in situations, they will inadvertently give honest solutions.
How do we do that?
- Talk to your child about situations where there is a temptation to be dishonest. One such situation is when you are not feeling like going to work. Ask your child whether you should you lie about a fake illness or should you be honest?
- Ask your child simple questions and when he/she gives you honest answers, follow them through. For instance, I asked my son his opinion of the tee shirt I was wearing. He said that he does not like the colour so I asked him if he wants me to change into something of his liking. His honest response was, “Don’t worry now. Just wear a better tee shirt tomorrow.”
I respected his honest point-of-view and so he gave me an honest solution back. Simple as that!
5) The wolf cry!
“The story is so old but still works,” says Dhara.
She is talking about the story of the boy who called wolf and when the wolf actually came, nobody paid heed to his call. Read the story to your child.
Talk about its applicability in your world today
The fun part
- When your child returns home from school, tell him/her that you’ve made pizza (or any of his/her favourite dishes).
- As he/she get ready to eat, serve the regular food.
- He/she will dislike your lie and might even throw a tantrum.
- Bring out the pizza or whatever the favourite dish may be and then explain that being dishonest affects the other person in the same negative way they got affected when you promised a pizza and served regular food.
“My son got so deeply affected by this activity that I noticed him never saying things just for the heck of it for the next few days,” says Dhara. I hope the learning stays for life!
H – Honour the other person.
O – Ownership and responsibility.
N – Never lie.
E – Every truth counts.
S – Say I did it when you did.
T – Truth always wins.
Y – Y lie when you know the truth?
This is just a simple reference chart that I made for my son. You can use any word/sentence for every alphabet of H-O-N-E-S-T-Y. End of the day, it all boils down to the same thing.
What are the fun ways in which you taught your child to be honest? Share a couple of your suggestions with us.
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