The election results continue to come in. No matter what side of the political scene you’re on, the game-changing nature of the political climate has most adults bewildered. Those of us parenting might wonder how to raise honest kids when we don’t see those qualities from our leaders.
How do you teach and model honesty for today’s kids? Here are eleven principles to consider.
1. Practice what you preach. No matter what you’re trying to teach your kids, if you live the opposite of what you’re telling them to do, you lose credibility in their eyes. Kids know hypocrisy when they see it. If you expect your kids to be honest, it has to be your lifestyle, too. Live what you believe. This is tough, but it holds you accountable to your kids.
2. Call cheating what it is–dishonesty. Your kids have more opportunity to cheat today than ever before. Your kids will see classmates cheat in a variety of ways to get good grades. My husband and I are both high school educators and we can usually tell dishonest work. Whether a student gets caught or not, when a he or she cheats, their credibility and character is tainted in the eyes of the adult who sees the dishonesty. In the long run, cheating robs the cheater of character and future opportunities they may never know they’ve ruined. Teach your child to trust the Lord with the results of honest work.
3. Share positive results of your honesty. Adults have opportunities to be dishonest every day. Each time you choose to honesty, you model behavior for your kids, but they often don’t see it. Talk with your kids about the temptation to be dishonest, and why you choose not to. This will give your teens strength in private moments when they need courage.
4. Be honest in your conversations with your kids. Honesty isn’t just telling the truth about something, it’s making truthful statements. Kids learn pretty early whether they can trust your word. The words you share with them are important. If what you’re about to say isn’t fully truthful to your knowledge at the time, then don’t say it. Or, say it with expectations you can meet (If I can’t take you to that ballgame, we’ll at least go throw the football around when I’m done with the lawn work this weekend). Being honest means if you say you’ll do something with them, you need to follow through except for extenuating circumstances.
5. Be honest when talking to other people. Kids know you’re dishonest even when telling white lies. White lies may be justifiable, but kids don’t understand the various components of morality in adult behavior. Truth is something that’s black and white to kids. It’s humbling to be honest with others when you know your kids are watching. When your kids see you be honest in small things, your credibility and respect with them grows.
6. Give your kids appropriate words to be truthful without opening them up to social vulnerability. Your child may not want to go to a party because they know there will be drugs, alchohol, or sexual behavior they don’t want to be a part of. But they might not be strong enough to tell friends why they don’t want to go. Give your kids truthful options to get themselves out of difficult social situations. You be the fall guy instead of them. Give them the excuse of “My family is going out that night and my mom is making me go.” Then go somewhere with them. You may only go to McDonald’s, but you’re giving them an honest way to save face.
7. Share good outcomes when you’ve been honest. Let’s face it–honesty doesn’t always get immediate rewards. Share your own stories of positive outcomes when you’ve been honest.
8. Be honest when asked tough questions. A parent fears being asked their past. When this happened to me, I knew it was a critical moment in my relationship with my teen. If I was dishonest, I would lose their trust. It was one of the hardest moments in parenting, but it was worthwhile to humble myself and be honest.
9. Stand by your kids when they’re honest. There may be difficult situations when your teen needs to be honest about something they’ve done or they need to report. These can be life-defining moments. Modeling honesty as a lifestyle gives them strength when your child needs to take a hard stand. Stand by them, even if other adults don’t understand.
10. When in doubt, tell the truth. As you live this principle, your kids will know what the standard is in your house without you even telling them. When you live the values you want your kids to learn, you’re equipping them for a lifetime. While it’s still their choice to accept those values, they witness confidence of what it looks like to live an honest life.
11. Trust God with the results. In a “do whatever you can to get ahead” culture, God’s ways seem archaic. But His ways are true, good, and He provides outcomes that no one except Him can guarantee. Make Joshua 1 your litany for raising truthful kids.
Be strong and courageous–for the Lord God will do with you where ever you go.