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God made people to be truthful and honest in all things. But Satan, the father of lies and chief of dishon­esty, seduced us into sin. Man’s sinless and perfect nature was replaced with sin and all that is bad. By nature a child will lie, cheat, steal, and in general, be dishonest. David clearly stated, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5).

So, how does a child learn to be honest?

Parents must teach children what it means to be honest. Children are not born with that knowledge. The best way to teach honesty is to be honest. To a great extent, children become what their parents are. So parents must take care not to confuse children by giving a “do as I say, not as I do” example.

Help children understand the difference between playtime make-believe and lying about real issues. Cre­ativity needs to be fostered, but not at the expense of truthfulness. While both are sinful, the deliberate, mali­cious, and defiant lie is more troubling than the impul­sive, immature response of a child.

When a child chooses to be dishonest, try to deter­mine why that choice was made. While dishonesty is always a sin, knowing the motivation behind the lie is helpful in teaching a child how to avoid that sin in the future. Is the child lying because he or she is fearful of the consequences of speaking the truth? Parents need to stress the understanding and forgiving nature of their Savior. We all make mistakes. We all deserve pun­ishment. But when we admit our mistake and receive forgiveness, we can all experience the removal of that guilt. Praise and thank children for being honest and truthful. We all like to receive recognition for actions that are out of the ordinary. And while we would like honesty to become a natural response, we know that it is a learned response. It needs positive reinforcement.

Finally, understand and teach children that being honest is not done out of a fear of punishment. As in compliance with all commandments, children are to be truthful out of love for the Lord. They need to know, “I show love for Jesus by being honest.”

Patient ParentingFrom Patient Parenting. © 2006 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.