Today’s guest post is by Dr. Todd Cartmell, a child psychologist who has been working with children, teens, parents, and families for the last 18 years in Wheaton, IL.

The author of five parenting books including Keep the Siblings…Lose the Rivalry, Dr. Todd is a favorite Hearts at Home speaker. He and his wife, Lora, have two young adult sons who are currently attending college.


“I didn’t put it there,” Brian exclaimed, wide-eyed and looking as if he had never even seen a soda can before and couldn’t believe that one had mysteriously snuck into his room. “I thought I told you not to bring sodas up to your room,” Brian’s mom sternly reiterated as she came out of Brian’s room, holding a soda can.

“And what about all these granola bar wrappers I found under your bed?”  she asked.  “Brian, I’ve told you a thousand times, NO FOOD IN YOUR ROOM!”

“Mom, I don’t know how they got there,” Brian held firm.  “I didn’t put them there.  Honest!”

That’s the word.  Honest. 

I’ve heard this story, and various similar versions, more times than I can count.  A child caught red-handed in a bad choice, adding on an even worse choice by looking you in the eye and lying about it.

I know one mom who actually SAW her son take a toy from his sibling and then her son insisted that he did not.  “I just saw you do it!” the mom continued to state, exasperated and in disbelief that this conversation was even taking place.  “I didn’t do it,” came the reply.

As the country song said, “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”

Most kids that I have seen come clean more easily and quickly than the examples above, but there are some who will stick with their story to the bitter end.

How do we help our kids learn the value of honesty, especially when being honest is hard? 

Here are a few ideas:

Talk together as a family about honesty.  Why does God say that honesty is so important?  What good things does honesty bring?  What negative results does dishonesty bring?  Sitting around the table at dinnertime or asking these questions while you drive somewhere can be good times to talk about questions like this.

Model honest behavior.  There is no better lesson than kids seeing mom and dad be honest in everyday life.

Help your child find a better solution.  I think of lying as problem-solving gone awry.  Your child was faced with a problem and thought that lying was her best option.  Help her find the better solutions that she overlooked and explain why they are better.

Catch her being honest.  Be on the lookout for honest moments (no matter how small!) and point them out to your child.  This will help her realize that honesty is the best policy.

Make lying her problem, not yours.  Choose negative consequences that will fit the crime and teach the lesson that dishonesty NEVER pays off.  For example, if a child lies about a homework assignment, a certain privilege can be discontinued until that homework assignment is made up and all other assignments are up to date.  A child can even be given an extra homework assignment to complete if this problem continues.

All of us have been dishonest at times.  We want our kids to learn that there are only two times when they need to be honest: When it is easy and when it is hard.

Of course, the best lesson they will learn about being honest will come from watching you.

How about you? Do you have an example of a time when your child stuck with a lie despite clear evidence to the contrary? How have you proactively taught your kids about honesty?

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