How Can You Encourage Truth Telling?
How can you help your child be (mostly) truthful? By encouraging truthfulness, modeling it, and rewarding it. By addressing not only the content of the lie but also the lying itself. By staying alert to the motivations your child may have for lying. By responding with dialogue and understanding. According to Dr. DePaulo: "What kids need to know is that you want them to try their best to do the right thing. You also understand that no one is perfect. If they do make a mistake, they can come to you and know that you will not castigate them but you will want them to do better in the future."
Many ethicists and psychologists believe that the origin of good morals is a healthy attachment in infancy. There is no dearth of evidence that an infant securely bonded to her parent will grow into a child who is less likely to engage in antisocial behavior. It also makes sense that someone who has experienced a close, loving, and trustworthy connection early in life is more likely five, 10, 20 years later to value integrity in adult relationships and feel that truth -- unless it's unkind and unnecessarily harmful -- cements a relationship to others and to the world.
Finally, if you aim to help your child become a good person, it makes sense that the way to start is by making sure your family lives up to its standards and, ideally, always provides your child with affection, support, respect, and communication. These goals are hard to reach for even the most mindful parents. But it may be in the striving to be a good family that parents provide a workable model for a child to grow -- we hope -- into a wonderful though imperfect adult.
Copyright © 2005 Meredith Corporation. Originally published in the April 2005 issue of Child magazine.
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