Teaching Children To Be Honest

My four-year-old has learned how to do so many things, most of which I’m proud of. However, there is one new skill that I’m really not thrilled about, and that’s her lying. I know it’s a part of growing up and learning right from wrong. Luckily, I can typically work my “special mommy powers” to get the truth out of her. And by “special mommy powers,”  what I really mean is that I can outsmart her. For now at least. I have explained to her that lying will always get her into more trouble, with more consequences, than if she just comes clean from the get-go. I may, or may not, have also told her that I WILL ALWAYS FIND OUT THE TRUTH while using the “I mean business!” look on my face. We’re working on it. Honesty can be a pretty challenging concept to teach a preschooler.

Before dinner the other night, my father in law shared a story. He had gone grocery shopping and when he was loading his car with all of his groceries he discovered a carton of ice cream that he had accidentally forgotten to pay for. At this point, the ice cream was really starting to melt so he drove home. For many people, that’s where the story would end. However, after getting the ice cream in the freezer he took a picture of the item as well as its bar code. The next day, he returned to that same grocery store, explained to the woman working at the customer service desk what happened, and asked to pay for it.

I’m sure you can imagine the look of shock on the cashier’s face. She explained to him that she wasn’t even sure she could do that and called a manager over. The manager told him, while tearing up a little, that in her 30 years in this business this has never happened. The person behind him in line even began clapping once they realized what was going on! My father in law had done more than pay for the item; he restored a little faith in humanity for these people.

For the record, this is the kind of person my father in law is all of the time, not just in this particular instance. I’m sure it has much to do with his father (my husband’s grandfather) who is just as decent. I also know that much of who my husband is as a person can be attributed to having grown up with these strong role models. Do you see a pattern here? (Fun fact – all three of these honest men have the same name!)

It’s a great story, but more than that it serves as a powerful reminder. One of life’s many lessons is that it is certainly not always easy, nor convenient, to be honest and do what is right. We can tell our children to do the right thing and to be an honest person until we are blue in the face, but the real lessons we teach our children – the ones that really stick – come from leading by example. We possess the power to teach our children how to be honest; to do what’s right even when it’s not as easy. And much of that is done by SHOWING them.

Poppi (my father in law) with my daughter Emma
Poppi (my father in law) with my daughter Emma


5 thoughts on “Teaching Children To Be Honest

  1. So that made me tear up at my desk today. I was at my parents that night he brought that ice cream back and I watched him take the pictures and isn’t it funny that because that was how I was raised I didn’t think anything odd about it. Carly what a beautiful reminder of what it means to lead by example. Thank you for this and as always cudos to my truly one of a kind dad! Love you both!


  2. YES! I value honesty too and already at just age 3 my girl knows how to lie. I love the idea that we can model this behavior for our children (the honesty, not the lying!).


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