Phew! It’s just the 8th day of the #blogchatterA2Z challenge and it already seems like I have been writing forever! Today letter H reigns supreme and what better than H for Honesty. Honesty is not just about being truthful or not cheating or following rules. Honesty is a value one lives by – it starts with being honest to oneself, then to others and to the society at large. One cannot talk about honesty without including integrity. Integrity is the consistent practice of honesty and adherence to ethical principles and values. By encouraging our children to practice honesty, we are helping them develop a sound character.
At a young age, one starts with instilling basic truthfulness and as children grow up we need to start imbibing other aspects of honesty and integrity. It is also important to teach children that honesty begets trust – which is the foundation of any strong relationship.
Let me share some tips on building honesty and integrity in our children:
Build a trustful relationship with your children: I would think that this is the single most important contribution to building honesty. A child that shares an honest relationship with her parents will always value honesty and be prone to building honest relationships herself. Be honest in what you tell them – how you answer their questions or how you give them feedback. For example, if you are denying them something, tell them the real reason rather than making an excuse. Encourage them to respond honestly to you. For example, I noticed my son would say a dish is awesome, but then go on to say, “mom you can add a bit more spice”. It is a small example, but I used it to tell my child that it is okay to give honest feedback. It is also important to keep your promises to the child – empty promises will make a child distrustful of not only you, but the world at large.
Set the right example: if you resort to small white lies off and on – be sure that your child is noticing it all. Example – telling a small lie to not pay for the movie ticket for the younger child or when you skip a party saying you are sick. Or if you are hiding something from your own parents – be sure your child is not going to let you forget that anytime soon! You may find it convenient but the message your child is getting is that it is okay to be dishonest sometimes.
Strictness could lead to dishonesty: often children lie to get out of trouble. If a child fears punishment (or disappointing you) on doing something wrong, he will try as much as possible to get out of telling you the truth. Hence, encourage your child to be truthful to you and not fear being punished. If you make an attempt to understand why something went wrong and discuss the situation with your child, he would be much more comfortable telling the truth. As a parent learn to deal with situations calmly – it would encourage your children to discuss situations and issues more openly with you.
What’s yours is yours: from a young age, tell children about ownership and personal space. What belongs to them is theirs and what belongs to others is not theirs and not for them to take. My husband remembers a very early childhood memory. He was probably 4 or 5 and he really liked his classmate’s colour box and brought it home. When his mother realized what he had done, she didn’t scold him and instead explained how what he did was wrong and the colours did not belong to him. She then took him to his friend’s house to return the box. It was a good way teach him a basic value without needing to punish or scold and he lesson he remembers till now.
Reward the truth: appreciate your child when they tell you the truth and say that you understand how difficult it might have been to own up. Tell them you understand how brave it is to be honest and tell the truth. Lying is the easy way out but being honest is the right thing to do. I remember how this was a key lesson in many Enid Blyton books I read during my childhood and it became part of my character.
Liars are disbelieved: the link between truth and trust can never be overemphasized. Tell your children that if they don’t tell the truth, people will stop believing them. The story of “the boy who cried wolf” is a very good example of the same. It illustrates clearly the negative consequence of lying.
Hard truth: it is important to teach your children that a wrong is always a wrong and they should stand for what they believe is right. If your friend is cheating, you must tell him not to. It is more important to do what is right rather than protecting the feelings of the one who is doing wrong.
Being honest to yourself: finally, remember that it is probably toughest to be honest to your own self. The ability to acknowledge your feelings – even the negative ones is very important. For only when you acknowledge that something exists can you do something about. Recognising your own flaws or admitting to a wrong judgment or decision is not easy. But the path to self correction starts from there. To encourage this you must spend time with your children, help them acknowledge and face their feelings, their drawbacks and their mistakes. Use these discussions to guide them on improving or healing themselves.
Honesty and integrity are signs of a strong character and will always stand in good stead throughout your children’s lives.