|Thinking About Honesty
||To tell the truth; to live based on truth
|She tells the truth at all times, under every circumstance. She
admits to eating the candy, though she knew she was supposed to wait until after dinner. She
reports the auto accident exactly as it happened, even if she was at fault. She does not commit
verbally to one thing and then do another.
|To be honest, she must be aware of what is happening and
remember it accurately. She must be in touch with reality.
|Insights about the
To be in touch with reality is a developmental trait. Children
younger than five or six have trouble keeping reality separate from what they wish for or what
they pretend. They do not yet have the thinking skills to do so. Therefore, to expect young
children to be "honest" is unrealistic. They do not understand the concept.
Honesty also takes courage. It is often difficult to recognize and then admit to oneself or to
someone else that one did not handle a situation well, or did not do what one should have done. A
child can only develop that kind of courage in an atmosphere of trust, where she knows she is
Teaching or Preserving Honesty
||The concept of honesty has no meaning for a baby. At this stage, she is building her
concept of the world. It is important for her to experience the world as having structure and
routine, where her needs will be met. This will give her a basis on which honesty can be built
when she is older.
||To expect honesty of children between age two and six is unrealistic
because of their cognitive development. Give your child a sense of what is real and true, and give
her something to build on as she grows by reviewing a situation for her---you do have to provide
the review. This is why parents and teachers of toddlers and preschoolers need to stay aware of
everything, how the play is going, who is doing what, and so on, because the children cannot give
us accurate information when things go wrong. They cannot yet differentiate between the real and
the imagined, between what happened and what they wish happened.
Children at this age are able to tell the difference between what
happened and what they wish had happened. You have a unique role to play in helping her face
reality and tell the truth. There are several challenges.
Follow her activities enough to know what is going on and when she is telling the truth or not.
During the teenage years this can be very difficult because so much of what teens do is out of the
home. Two things to do are keep in touch with other parents and know what her school expects of
Another challenge is to be sure to take time to listen carefully to and understand her side of an
issue. Do not make threats of punishment so severe that she is afraid to tell the truth. Also, be
sure to let a child who is lying know that she is still loved and cherished even though she is lying,
and that you expect her to change and start telling the truth. Be careful not to label her a liar
because labels promote the behavior they describe.
Influences on Learning Honesty
||The drive to meet most needs can interfere with a person's ability to be honest. A
starving person may steal food and lie about doing so. She may lie to protect herself or a friend
from harm or to protect her own or a friend's self-esteem. In many situations it takes courage to
be honest, which is perhaps why the two qualities are so often linked.
||Some children have poor memories: they either do not remember what
happened or remember it inaccurately. These children need special protection and gentle
reminding of what did occur. For a parent or a teacher to call such a child a liar is to accuse her
Reflections about Honesty
|Influence of other
|Raw, straightforward honesty can get in the way of a caring
response or cooperative effort. Uncle Joe might not be destitute if he had handled his money
more wisely, but her telling him so does not show a caring concern for his well-being, even if it is
honest. Likewise, reminding someone she did not cooperate on the last project is not going to get
her to cooperate on a new project; better to keep it in mind and help the group of which she is a
part organize the new project with clearer expectations.
In analyzing being honest, it is evident that the value is
more complex than a simple answer of this or that happened, this person did this or that. Caring
for the well-being of someone else or seeking to build a cooperative effort may mean using
knowledge of the truth to do something differently, without stating the truth or accusing someone
Knowing that your child has smoked marijuana or is sexually active may mean that what is
important is protecting her and stating your concern for her, rather than getting her to admit to
you what she has done. She does not need to acknowledge unsafe activity in order to accept help
and protection from you. In this case, the goal of keeping your child safe may conflict with your
value of honesty.