As parents, we are entrusted with teaching our children moral values and developing their good character. It is a duty that, when done well, has a positive ripple effect, impacting everyone and everything they will influence throughout their whole lives. In short, our parenting impacts the world. No pressure.
One fundamental aspect of good character is truthfulness. It seems like such a simple concept, but the value of truthfulness goes beyond simply not lying. If imbued in a child’s character, it can benefit him or her in every aspect of life.
What does truthfulness include? Not lying is a good start. Lying can easily become a habit, so nipping it in the bud early is best.
From truthful speech, we can encourage truthful action and even truthful thoughts. Rather than using cunning or trickery to get their way, children can be taught that being honest and sincere leads to a life of authenticity.
Living authentically allows a person to journey through life unburdened with the stress of maintaining falsehoods. It also allows one to connect with one’s true nature and inherent strengths. Understanding and developing one’s true self creates the opportunity to bear the fruits of one’s talents.
Valuing truthfulness also leads to the ability to discern truth from falsehood, and to a desire to uphold the truth.
Truly, teaching our children truthfulness is no trivial matter. So how can parents go about instilling this value in their children’s character? Here are a few practical considerations.
As parents, we know that children may or may not take to heart every word we say, but they’ll surely notice and mimic what we do.
How truthful are you in your own life? If you’re like most people, there may be some room for improvement. Give yourself a tough audit. Are you truthful in your speech, actions, and thoughts? Are you true to yourself? Do you present to others your true self? Do you seek out and uphold the truth? How can you be more truthful?
Talk About the Truth
Make the importance of truthfulness a regular topic in your home. Ensure that your children know that they can always come to you with the truth, no matter how scary or difficult. Help them understand the benefits of living truthfully and the detriments of lying.
Read Stories About Truthfulness
From antiquity to the present, moral lessons of truthfulness have been illustrated in stories. From Aesop’s “The Golden Axe,” to the story of George Washington chopping down the cherry tree, to “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” to “Pinocchio,” there are many classic stories that can be shared to demonstrate the virtue of truth.
There will be times when it will be tempting for children to hide the truth or lie, when they fear getting into trouble, when they are embarrassed, or when the truth is simply uncomfortable. As parents, when you witness your child overcome such a situation and tell the truth anyway, reward them. Recognize the hardship they overcame and their strength of character. They’ll remember the positive consequences of doing the right thing even when it’s hard.
Know Their True Selves
Sometimes parents impose their personal dreams and wishes upon their kids. For them to fully be able to live out lives of authenticity, however, it’s better to let their true selves emerge and allow them to show you what their talents and strengths are, what their personalities are like, what sort of temperaments they have, what they’re truly interested in—in short, who they truly are.
Make it your job to get to know your children and do what you can to support their true self-actualization. To grow up appreciated for and encouraged to be who you truly are is a great gift from a parent. By focusing on truthfulness, you can give that to your children.