Encouraging your kids to tell the truth
Telling the truth is so hard! No kid wants to be their own downfall by ratting themselves out. A willing punishment…yeah, right! Not happening! So how do we encourage them to be honest, even if they think they may get in trouble? Well, I can only share what I know, so here are a few ways that we’ve encouraged honesty in our kids.
When talking to my kids about certain topics like, telling the truth, or even trying to teach them to express their feelings, we’ve always taken the conversation to their level. We use references and words they can relate to. Like when they’re sick and have belly pain, they know by now to tell us if it’s a sharp pain (gas), a wavy pain (nausea), or a pressing pain (…I don’t know what that one is, we just rest and relax out bellies). What I’m saying is, water down & simplify your language.
For the purpose of showing you how I would lead the conversation, let’s just say I saw my daughter hit a friend. Here’s how I would approach the “honesty” talk with my 5 year old:
- When you see or know they did something wrong (like hitting), ask leading questions that encourage them to tell come clean with what happened and why it happened. This encourages kids to recognize that, more than simply hitting, there are emotions tied to why they lashed out that needs to be dealt with (it also makes them start wondering “what does mommy know“? Being all knowing to a kid can really work in your favor *wink)
“Hey guess what I found out? My friends were caught hitting each other, isn’t that sad? Why do you think friends hit each other? Do you think that’s nice?”
- Encourage them to think of the other person and how they may be feeling. You could also tell them about how a situation like this would make you feel (make it personal for them).
“I sure would be sad if my friend hit me. We’re supposed to help each other, not hurt each other. If I did something wrong, I wish my friend would have told me instead of hitting me, I would have stopped.”
- Ask how they would feel, or what they would do if something like that happened to them, and what type of punishment is appropriate.
“If it’s not nice to hit, and someone does it anyway, do you think they should get a punishment? Or do you think it’s OK for everyone to walk around hitting each other?” (here’s where a guilty part would give total amnesty to the offender)
- Confess about a time when you hit and how you handled it.
“Can I tell you a secret? It doesn’t make me happy now, but I’ve hit somebody before. I got really angry, and they were bothering me. After I did it, I was really sad, so I said sorry to them. Now I feel better. Has that ever happened to you?
- Let them know they can trust and confide in you.
“When I hit, I was scared of getting in trouble, so I never told my mommy. But I want you to know that you can tell me and I won’t be angry. Hitting doesn’t make me happy, but I’ll teach you the right thing to do and we’ll get better at controlling our hands and emotions”.
- Explain why it’s important to tell the truth rather than letting the truth come from someone else. We stress to our kids that we need to be able to trust them. And trust is built up by coming clean even when they’re in the wrong. Also, the truth always comes out, and having to remember lie after lie is exhausting!
“You have to honest with me, it’s OK to make mistakes, but lying about our mistakes makes 2 wrongs and could lead to 2 punishments. I’ll give you grace and skip a punishment but I have to trust that you’ll try to do better”
Mama’s there’s a few things that we should be aware of when trying to get our kids to tell the truth. It’s not easy and we have to be patient.. willingly getting into trouble is a hard lesson to both teach and receive. So here’s what I’ve learned from these talks with my kids:
- They may not admit to it, but you’re laying a foundation and setting expectations.
- Always ask when you’re all just lounging around or while we’re doing something together. They’re more relaxed and have an easier time telling the truth if they’re not being reprimanded.
- This doesn’t just happen after a few tries. Getting in trouble is never fun but telling the truth is a life lesson worth putting the time and effort into when they’re young.
- You may have to let a true punishment slide the first few times. However, you should be setting up consequences in case this happens again. Ease your way into them, you may need wiggle room depending on how long it takes them to grasp this lesson.