Teaching the Virtues: Honesty
Do As I Say... Not As I Do?
By Mary Dixon Lebeau
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The difficulty many parents have in teaching honesty is that we aren’t always transparent or forthright ourselves. “Learning is caught, not taught, and a parent who tells little white lies in front of their children while telling them to be honest about everything is in essence teaching them to lie indirectly,” says Suzy Martyn, a parenting consultant and author of Enjoy the Ride: Tools, Tips and Inspiration for the Most Common Parenting Challenges.
“Teaching honesty by example is very effective,” agrees Freedson, adding that “do as I do” is always a better motto than “do as I say, not as I do.”
Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. As Freedson points out, teaching by example means that the parent conducts her own personal and business affairs in an honest and ethical manner. “By doing so, you will be demonstrating the self-respect that accompanies ethical behavior,” she says.
You will also be setting an example, but it’s one that’s easily sabotaged. If you fudge on your taxes, neglect to return an overpayment, or even tell your child to say you’re not home when a telemarketer calls, you are showing your child that it’s okay to be dishonest in certain situations – not exactly the example your child needs. Remember that your child is watching, and your actions now will shape his decisions in the future.