How to Raise Honest Kids
Lying is a tough one. Once a lie is spoken it is impossible to take it back and it erases all of the honest words before it. My oldest lied to me. Heck, all of my kids have lied to me, and I’m sure they will again. Our job as parents is to draw out the truth. I haven’t figured out the end-all method to cutting through the lies, nor do I know if there is one, but I can tell you that making a lesson out of each lie is the best strategy.
So, my middle schooler lied straight to my face. I asked him repeatedly each day for about 2 weeks if he had homework. He would tell me he finished it in class, they had a test so no homework was assigned, they were working on a project in class, etc. And guess what?! I was relieved!! Yay, this momma got to take a break from subtracting fractions or searching “how to subtract fractions” online because I admit this was never my strong suit. So I believed him. His school does progress reports often and when his came home I immediately noticed his grade in math had dropped. I emailed his teacher because I could tell that the whole truth wasn’t being told. His test scores were excellent, but surprise, my amazing child hadn’t been turning in any homework…like none. His teacher and I spoke on the phone and I assured him that he could expect improvement by tomorrow.
I went through my son’s backpack when he got home and we found 11 assignments! Oh my gosh…and most of them weren’t even started. So, I explained our new situation, consequences and how his lying had dissolved the trust between us. We started right away on rebuilding the trust, as well as, his grade. I helped him for an hour and a half. As I prepared dinner he continued to work asking for help when needed. I made it crystal clear that EVERY SINGLE ASSIGNMENT, 11 in all, were going to be completed and turned in the following day. Let me tell you, it was hard on us both. He fought me with every new ditto and tried to convince me that he couldn’t do one more problem or his head would explode. Well, it didn’t. He survived. He had wadded one paper up when I wasn’t looking and tossed it in the trash…but guess what, I was counting. When he told me he was finished…nearly 4 hours after he began there were 10 completed assignments. He tried to convince me that there were no more and I must have originally miscounted, but I wasn’t falling for it again. Reluctantly that paper was pulled from the kitchen trash can. That paper, now 1/2 way completed, made its way into the sink full of dinner dishes that I was cleaning up because my boy was insistent that he was doing NO MORE HOMEWORK that day. I calmly told him that it would get completed and that he knew where the hair dryer was, the faster he blew it dry, the faster we could both be done.
It was a hard lesson, long, agonizing and painful for everyone within earshot. There was yelling, tears, defiance…and that was just from him. At the end of it all, I hugged him. I encouraged him that this was a one-time lesson, that I was proud that he got through two weeks of assignments in one night, but that he had broken trust and it wouldn’t return overnight.
If you are dealing with dishonesty, for the first time, or it’s becoming routine, here is my advice…
Make it memorable. Let the child feel the full weight of their lie through consequence. If I allowed him to do one extra page each day we would still be working on them, the slight inconvenience wouldn’t have affected him and his grade would still be suffering. I’m thankful that we dealt with it immediately, made amends, breathed relief and started fresh the next day.