Many parents think that it's premature to teach values to a toddler or preschooler. But that's a misconception. There are five values that all children should develop by their fifth birthday, and some ways to make them stick.
Those values are: Honesty; Justice; Determination; Consideration; and Love. I will address each one in a separate blog, so look for all five blogs. Today we will explore the first of these values, Honesty.
Value #1: Honesty – Help Kids Find a Way to Tell the Truth.
The best way to encourage truthfulness in your child is to be truthful yourself. Consider this story: Carol decided to limit the number of playdates between her 3-year-old son, Chris, and his friend Paul. The boys had been fighting a lot recently, and Carol thought they should spend some time apart. So when Paul's mother called one afternoon to arrange a get-together, Carol told her that Chris was sick.
Overhearing this, her son asked, "Am I sick, Mommy? What's wrong with me?" Carol, taken aback by her son's frightened look, told him she had only said he was sick, because she didn't want to hurt Paul's mother's feelings. Carol then launched into a complicated explanation of the distinctions between the various types of lies, and Chris was confused. All he understood was that fibbing is sometimes okay-and that, in fact, it's what people do.
Your child takes his cues from you, so it's important that you try to avoid any kind of deception, even a seemingly innocuous one. (Never, for instance, say something like "Let's not tell Daddy we got candy this afternoon.") Let your child hear you being truthful with other adults. Carol would have been better off saying, "This isn't a good day for a playdate. I'm concerned that the boys were fighting so much last week. I think they need a break."
Another way to promote the value of honesty: Don't overreact if your child lies to you. Instead, help her find a way to tell the truth. When the mother of 4-year-old Janice walked into the family room one afternoon, she saw that her large potted plant had been toppled and that several branches had been snapped off. She knew right away what had happened; once before, she had seen Janice making her Barbie dolls "climb the trees," and she'd told her daughter at the time that the plants were off-limits.
When Mom demanded an explanation, a guilty-looking Janice blamed the family dog. Janice's mom reacted sensibly: She interrupted her child's story and said, "Janice, I promise I won't yell. Think about it for a minute, and then tell me what really happened." After a moment, the child owned up to her misdeed. As a consequence, Janice had to help clean up the mess and was not allowed to watch television that afternoon, but her mom made sure to emphasize how much she appreciated her daughter's honesty. In doing so, she taught the child an important lesson: Even if being honest isn't always easy or comfortable, you – and other people – always feel better if you tell the truth.
Having a child is a great gift – but also a big responsibility. Give some of these suggestions a try. You may be pleasantly surprised!
Adapted from an article in Parents Magazine.
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