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Children's Honesty

I have a 10-year-old son who has recently begun lying – about everything! My husband and I are very concerned that he is choosing the "easy way out" rather than taking responsibility for his actions and doesn't foresee the consequences of lying. As a result, I have changed his science fair project from a "Battery Powered Car" to the "Negative Effects of Lying."

I am trying to help him see why lying is a bad choice from all different angles – parents/adults, peers, religious, governmental, psychological, emotional, etc. And to help him understand the benefits of integrity, honesty, conscience, trust, and morals.

Any ideas/information/thoughts on this topic would be greatly appreciated.

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

I think that you are a fantastic parent for dealing with your child so honestly and sincerely. However, I can't really see a 10-year-old getting excited about a project on the "Negative Effects of Lying" while his friends are doing "Battery Powered Vehicles!"

Why not be creative and work within his area of interest? An electric car can be a great place to teach the topic of honesty – and you're likely to get more cooperation from him, too.

For example, why not discuss the morality of a car manufacturer making unrealistic claims about a car's performance, gas mileage, etc. How about talking about the subtle, manipulative nature of consumer advertising? Or a manufacturer hiding its knowledge of an auto's safety hazard – i.e. cars that tip over on sharp turns, or gas tanks that explode on impact.

You can show him how lying does not pay. Consider the loss of credibility (not to mention costly law suits) that results once people discover the fraud.

Allow me also to share a few general thoughts on teaching honesty to children.

First of all, a child has to feel that it is safe to tell the truth. Does your child feel that he can confide in you? What will happen if he tells the truth? Will he get punished if he has done something wrong and then tells you about it?

It is important to reward a child for telling the truth and to praise him for it. Tell him how grown up and mature he is, and emphasize how in the long run he will develop good and loyal friends with that kind of behavior.

Second of all, is the child being raised in an environment of honesty? If an annoying person calls on the phone, do we say to our child, "Tell her I'm not home?" Does he see his father saying innocent white lies to his business associates? Do you shave a few years off his age to get a cheaper movie ticket? Do we promise our children things and then not deliver?

For a child, a lie is a lie. If he perceives his environment as being dishonest (even if it is "acceptable" in the adult world), he will get the sense that lying is alright.

With blessings for success!

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