Raising Honest Kids

6 strategies for instilling integrity in your children

Every day some headline screams out details of the latest scandal: A best-selling author's accused of plagiarism; a leading coach fudges on his résumé; a corporate executive's caught embezzling funds. Is it any wonder our kids are confused about truth? Why shouldn't they lie? It seems as though everyone else does!

A nationwide teen character study released by the nonprofit Joseph & Edna Josephson Institute of Ethics found 7 in 10 students surveyed admitted to cheating on a test at least once in the past year, and nearly half said they'd done so more than once. Overall the Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth disclosed that 92 percent of the 8,600 students surveyed lied to their parents. In addition, 78 percent said they'd lied to a teacher, and more than 1 in 4 said they'd probably lie to get a job.

Our culture's standard for integrity seems to be: It doesn't matter if you shade the truth as long as no one gets hurt and you don't get caught. God's standard is: Do what's right even when no one is looking and no one will find out. What can we do to raise kids with God's standard for integrity? Here are six suggestions:

Model Honesty

I'm often tempted to exaggerate. But in striving to raise honest kids, I've had to face my weakness. I've asked my children to tell me if I'm exaggerating. On more than one occasion, they have! It's so easy to exaggerate or use "white lies" for convenience's sake, such as requesting your child tell a telephone caller you're not home when you are.

What's the trend in your behavior? Is it toward absolute honesty or deception? God's Word says, "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much" (Luke 16:10). Kids see adult role models as examples of what it takes to get ahead in the real world.

Don't Blame Others

One day when I was potty training our twins, I noticed Libby had a strange look on her face and was walking awkwardly. "Libby," I asked, "did you wet your pants?" "No, Mommy," she replied. "Susy did it!"

I burst out laughing, but her response is a typical refrain in a house-hold with young children. When something goes wrong, our natural instinct is to blame others—our boss, our parents, our circumstances, our friends. Teach your child that in the final analysis, she is responsible for her own behavior.

Discipline Lying

Talk with your children about complete honesty. Make sure they understand lying means big punishment. We've always prayed that if our kids do anything wrong, they'll get caught. Often they are! If your child's caught in a lie, don't bail him out. Walk with him in his punishment, but let him suffer the consequences of his actions. Take time to talk about the importance of honesty. Getting caught can be a blessing, although your child won't see that at the moment!

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May 25

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