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How to Raise Honest Children

How to Raise Honest Children

Honesty. These days that word comes with different degrees of interpretation. We have generations now who believe honesty is a right and an entitlement, and they have the security of social media to hide behind. Thoughts and opinions can be spewed forth with ease and without much regard to the ramifications of being honest.

There is also the element of honesty as it relates to how we propagate the image of ourselves to those around us. Again, with the surge in social media at the core of many friendships/relationships, there is a bit of a safety net when it comes to the embellishment of our personalities/persons.

One may also attempt to argue that honesty is what narratives we project to the world, whether through our own words and actions, through the media, through cinematic experiences, or through feedback from other sources. A photograph may be touted as one place and time, only to discover later it is a complete misrepresentation and was actually from a different place and time. A person may claim to be one thing online but when approached in the real world, be someone completely different. Children are learning to idolize social media influencers only to find out later that those same kind and entertaining people are struggling with mental health, contemplating suicide, or perhaps worse, are dangerous.

How do we even begin to raise honest children with so many mixed messages, truths, and morals on what constitutes honesty? Is teaching them to speak their mind a bad thing? How do we help them decipher mixed so-called truths? And if honesty really is the best policy, why are they being persecuted for standing for what they believe?

Here are a few thoughts to consider when attempting to raise honest children:

1. Teach them that truth is not relative.

Contrary to so much in the world today, truth is not relative. The very declaration that all truth is relative is, in fact, the citing of a truth statement and therefore may not be true (According to that logic). What is truth? Webster’s dictionary cites that truth is “the body of real things, events, and facts.” In other words, truth is unarguable and indisputable. It is real. It happened. It is an undeniable fact.

In the past, I could undeniably state the truth that I am a female. Today, that truth may not be your truth, though genetics still seem to claim gender. Instead, the honesty behind that statement is no longer determined by inflexible facts but rather by flexible feelings. I don’t feel that I am a woman; therefore, my truth statement is I am a man. I identify as such, regardless of scientific “truths” that may state otherwise. This is where confusion will set in very early and very quickly for your child if you do not teach them the Webster fundamental of an, until now, universally acknowledged fact that truth is factual and unchangeable regardless of our feelings, our opinions, or our preferences.

If a child has a line by which to measure each topic, then honesty is easier to come by because they have an equation by which to measure truth. Without the equation of fact, then the child will be fast to learn there really is no truth; therefore, at any moment, they can adjust their thought process, ethics, morals, or beliefs to suit them. Meaning, at the time, they were being honest—now, if their opinion shifts, they simply don’t match their original opinion, it’s not like they were being dishonest. They’ve merely evolved into a new state of mind.

Confused yet? Me too. So, while it’s distasteful, over-simplified, and not at all politically acceptable, consider teaching your child that certain truths can be defined based on science, history, mathematics, and other reliable processes. These truths do not shift based on the mood of the day, the narrative of the story, or the conviction of the moment.

2. Teach them that honesty may hurt.

Prepare your children for the fall-out that sometimes goes along with being honest. Whether someone is being honest with them, or they are being honest with others, oftentimes, it is accompanied by hurt or defensiveness. It may be around a truth, a belief, or an opinion, but regardless, speaking honestly and/or receiving honesty isn’t always easy.

However, just because honesty isn’t easy or pain-free doesn’t mean it should be avoided either. Honesty with each other is how we grow. It is how iron sharpens iron. Honesty can be an effective tool for learning about each other and ourselves. So, while honesty isn’t something to be avoided, we shouldn’t teach our children that their feelings will never be hurt or that they should avoid the truth in order to stay in a carefully protected self-environment.

3. Teach them to deliver honesty with grace and conviction.

We’ve all seen honesty and even truth issued in such a way that burns bridges, tears someone down, devalues a belief or construct, and is, in itself, delivered like a weapon of war.

Teaching our children how to be honest also comes with teaching our children how to serve up honesty with grace. This also doesn’t mean disregarding conviction, but it does mean that conviction should be tempered with kindness and understanding. Honesty does not automatically equate to reprimand. Unless you’re in a position of authority where reprimand demands honesty, honesty doesn’t need to be attached to an agenda of proving another wrong.

Yes, convictions are important. Biblically speaking, some are uncompromisable. However, speaking the truth in love—honestly—means a tactful and well-thought-out approach. Because we know that honesty can often cause pain, it is equally important to couch our words with alertness to that possibility.

When I have been approached for being wrong with harsh criticism—though perhaps they were being honest—it was not well received, nor did I attach any validity to their honesty. It was dismissed by the sheer need to survive the verbal onslaught. But when I’ve been approached honestly with understanding, a coming alongside, a distinct communication that I’m cared for in spite of, I am more willing to tolerate the pain to get to the truth of the matter. I fear less how the other person condemns me and more that the truth is exposed, no matter how badly it hurts.

Sometimes honesty with love will be painful, but it can also be effective. It can lead to healthy dialogue, even healthy disagreement. We won’t get there if we’re not honest, but we also won’t be honest if we’re unwilling to go there.

In the end, our children need to have a measuring stick by which to translate truth from opinion or falsehoods. They need to be willing to navigate through the pitfalls of honesty. They need to learn how to deliver truth and honesty in a spirit that honors that of Christ. Honesty runs in short supply these days. Honesty with grace and infused with Christ run even shorter. Let’s teach our children well. To not be afraid. To embrace honesty. Mostly, to embrace truth.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/AaronAmat

Jaime Jo Wright is the winner of the Carol, Daphne du Maurier, and INSPY Awards. She's also the Publishers Weekly and ECPA bestselling author of three novellas. The Christy Award-Winning author of “The House on Foster Hill”, Jaime Jo Wright resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing suspenseful mysteries stained with history's secrets. Jaime lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at!