Teaching honesty

We received this question from a reader: “Wondering if either of you had advice about how to help children understand and apply honesty to their lives.  What would you do if they choose to lie?  My children are 9 and 10, and I want them to grow up to be trustworthy, honest–so important–but so often a challenge for them.  Any thoughts that may help?”


This is a good question because I think it’s a common challenge in parenting.

It’s hard for me to write briefly on this subject because there are so many good things to be learned in this area of parenting. So I’ll tell you a few things that were specific to our house, and then refer you to a few sites that have ideas that I agree with and used when raising my children.

First, remember:

1- Children are not born knowing about honesty, they must be taught.

2 – Children follow the example of their parents. I agree with Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “What you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say.”

3 – An episode of lying or stealing does not make your child bad, or a “liar” (they are a good kid, who made a wrong choice)

4- The age of the child determines how to handle the situation. If a child is 3 years old or younger, teach the difference between reality and fantasy. Sometimes you may need to say, “That sounds like a story to me”.  Help them learn the difference.

Think about how many time you have had discussions about honesty with your child.  It seems that as parents we tend to talk about honesty only when there is a problem with dishonesty. And we assume they are learning about honesty in church, or school or magically on their own.  So we don’t bring it up much in between. You need to start early and talk about honesty often.

At our house the saying was, “If it’s not yours, just leave it alone”. Often kids (and some adults) see an item lying around and because it does not have a name on it, or there is nobody guarding it they think the object is free for the taking. Teach your child that it does not matter where they see something, or how much they would like to have it, if it does not belong to them they should just leave it alone.

Teach a child how it feels when they have been dishonest and honest. Feelings that come with dishonesty are uncomfortable; they might worry that someone will find out what they have done. They have to hide the item they took because they don’t want anyone to question them as to where they got it. Or they have to remember the lie they told so they can re-tell the story the same way if they are asked again. Teach them that when they are honest they don’t have to worry about any of those things; they will have a clear conscious and feel peace. Also, talk to your child about how they feel when someone has been dishonest TO THEM. The conversation can then show that when someone is dishonest to you it doesn’t feel good and we would never want to make another person feel that way.  I believe it is beneficial to have then recognize the feeling on BOTH sides.

With your children, make a “safe place” where kids and parents can go to talk.  Find a comfortable, private location either in your house, or outside. It could be under a shade tree in the yard, or on Mom’s bed, just make sure the location is known by each child and parent and that it does not change. When either one of you suggests you need to go to the safe place to talk, you know there might be hard things talked about but that there will only be understanding, kindness and love shown.  Anger, yelling, criticism, blaming and punishments are not allowed in the “safe place”.

Avoid questions that make it easy for your children to lie. This was an inspiration to me when I first heard the idea.  If you saw your child do something do not ask them if they did it.  For example, don’t ask, “Did you spill the cereal all over the floor”, this question encourages a child to lie to stay out of trouble. Rather say, “Please clean up the spilled cereal”.

Another way to teach these concepts to your child is to read books that deal with honesty/dishonesty. Even older children can enjoy a picture book read aloud to them. See our list below for ideas.

Books that help teach honesty to children

Picture Books

Arthur’s Classroom Fib by Marc Brown – After hearing about the exciting summer vacations of his classmates, Arthur decides to write an embellished version of his own

Betty Bunny Didn’t Do It by Michael B. Kaplan – Louis finds a toy model airplane in the playground and takes it home, but soon his guilt over taking something that is not his overpowers his love for toy airplanes.

Jamaica’s Find by Juanita Havill – A little girl finds a stuffed dog in the park and decides to take it home.

Princess Kim and the Lie that Grew by Maryann Cocca-Leffler – After new girl Kim tells her classmates she is from a royal family, her lie grows and grows

Princess Kim and too much truth –By Maryann Cocca-Leffler  -Young Kim discovers that there is a difference between being honest and always speaking the truth.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf – An Aesop’s Fable retold by B.G. Hennessy  – A boy tending sheep on a lonely mountainside thinks it a fine joke to cry “wolf” and watch the people come running–and then one day a wolf is really there, but no one answers his call.

The Berenstain Bears and the Truth by Stan Berestain – Brother and Sister Bear learn how important it is to tell the truth after they accidentally break Mama Bear’s most favorite lamp.

The Empty Pot by Demi – When Ping admits that he is the only child in China unable to grow a flower from the seeds distributed by the Emperor, he is rewarded for his honesty.

Zip, Zip Homework by Nancy Poydar- Violet has a great new backpack with wheels and zippers, but when the many pockets distract and cause her to misplace her homework she tells a lie to cover it up, so the teacher gives her an even harder assignment.

Chapter Books

 Big Whopper by Patricia Reilly Giff – When Destiny Washington cannot think of a discovery during Discovery Week at school, she makes up a story, but finds that she cannot keep on pretending it is true

Fancy Nancy and the Too Loose Tooth by Jane O’Connor – Nancy is about to lose her first tooth, but if she can prevent it from falling out until she arrives at school she will get a special necklace from the nurse.

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle Farm, story 1, The Not Truthful Cure by Betty McDonald- Mrs Piggle-Wiggle puts Fetlock to work on her farm and helps him realize that he does not have to lie to be accepted by friends.

Non-Fiction for Children

 Honesty by Kathryn Kyle – Easy-to-read scenarios, such as telling a store clerk that you received too much change or telling your mother you fed your broccoli to the dog, provide lessons in honesty.

Honest! By Kelly Dounda – This book discusses the importance of honesty, using examples of people who display this characteristic in different situations and including a story about a boy named James who broke a window.


If you would like to read more about activities to teach your child honesty, visit:

Activities to Teach Children Honesty

When Do Children Know What a Lie Is? -I recommend the first five paragraphs, but not the comments.

Teaching Your Kids to be Honest


Creating critical thinkers


Critical thinking is a useful skill which helps kids (and adults) solve problems, draw conclusions, evaluate information, and deepen their understanding.  It is an essential skill and can be easily cultivated.

Make guesses.  While you are out and about together if you see something out of the ordinary, talk about it.  Make guesses about what is going on.  When you read together make predictions about what will happen in the story, why certain characters made the choices they did, or why the author chose to end the story the way he did.  This is a learned skill and may be difficult at first.  Start off by modeling a LOT—think out loud so they hear your thought process.   After they hear you doing it, they will be excited to jump in and make their own guesses.  Any answer (unless too violent, inappropriate, etc) is acceptable.  Don’t tell them their answer is a bad guess, illogical, or dumb. Their mind is working and that is more important than an accurate guess.

 Show them its okay to be wrong.  My students always knew that it was okay to be wrong.  I was wrong sometimes, they were wrong sometimes, and that is one of the best ways to learn! Don’t be afraid to say, “Oh, Looks like I was wrong”.  Scientists and inventors have to be wrong before succeeding as well.  Teach them that mistakes and wrong answers are not only okay, they are good!

Ask “what could we do?” And “what should we do?”  If you always provide the solutions and answers to situations, kids will become trained to check out and think less.  Have them think through things.  Talk about the options then discuss which one makes the most sense.  Remember that if they give a bogus answer talk about it!  Even if you could follow through with that action, should you?

Talk about cause and effect.  Get them thinking about what will happen after they make a choice.  Talk about what caused something to happen.  If they are in a situation they like, figure out what led them there.  Likewise, if they are in an uncomfortable situation help them figure out what caused it (so they can avoid it in the future!)

Have them explain their answers. Have “why?” And “explain why you think/say that.” Become regular responses. Encourage them to think about how they came to conclusions. Coming up with an answer is one thing, explaining it and putting it into words takes it to a whole other level.  I have found that this is especially tricky for naturally bright students.  They are so used to understanding things easily and getting answers quickly because their brain works so fast.  They have a hard time vocalizing what they thought to reach their answer.  This skill is essential when questions and problems become more difficult and in depth.  This sets the foundation for skills and problem solving down the road.




How to respond to a child calling from another room


As a mother do you ever feel like people are calling you from several directions at once? Do you feel that you can’t seem to get to everyone?

Here’s one simple tip that may help. When one of your children (or maybe even a husband??) calls for you, rather than saying “What”, simply answer, “I’m in the kitchen” or “I’m in my bedroom” or where ever you at the time. Chances are high that if you state your location, they will come to you.  If you answer by saying “What” they usually reply  “Come here”.  Try it, see how it works and let me know.


Be in control of the morning!

Moms, School’s starting!

 Take control of the morning rather than allowing the morning to take control of you.



When I was a very young mom I went to a class where the woman speaking said, “When you get up in the morning, put on lip stick! Your kids hear you better when you are wearing lipstick”. Everyone laughed and I thought, “I don’t get it”. Well, now that I’m an old mom I think I understand. If you get up in the morning and get dressed, comb your hair, put on lip stick, or what ever it is that shows your children that you are ready for the day they will feel like you’re in control and pay attention to you better.

When I had a 13-month-old son I brought newborn twin boys home from the hospital. Thank goodness my mom lived close and was so willing to help. For the first 6 weeks of their lives, she came over every morning at 6:30 am for a few hours to help me. The first thing that she would do every morning was open the curtains in my dark front room and say, “Oh, what a beautiful day!”  That’s not what I was thinking; I was feeling tired, discouraged and overwhelmed. After I nursed the twins, I would go back into my room, alone, and sleep a while, then shower, dress and come out to the front room. There my mom had all the boys dressed and breakfast cleaned up. She would then go home and I could handle the rest of the day.

Why do I tell you this? Because, 30 years ago, even though I felt tired and overwhelmed with my three small children, every morning, no matter what the weather, my mom would let the sunshine into my house and say, “What a beautiful day!” and it had a lasting, positive affect on me. Even if I did not show it at the time, it was encouraging to me.

Now you’re the mom. And sometimes you will wake up feeling tired, overwhelmed, or discouraged. Instead of letting those feeling take over, take control of the morning!  Put on lipstick, open your curtains, tell your kids it’s going to be a great day, sing a song out load, put on some good music, or what ever is your style and take control of your morning: it will empower your children


Back to school on a budget

We love when people contact us and have questions!  We were recently asked “Any advice or ideas for how to prep for school on a small budget?” Yes! Yes we do!  So without further delay:


  • Don’t go shopping until you get a list of supplies from the teacher.  Each class and each teacher require different supplies and tools.  Lots of supplies are actually provided by the school.  You should receive a list of items for your child to bring for themselves as well as donations needed for the whole class Remember, the whole class donations can be given later during the year. For example, wait until cold weather and buy tissues on sale to donate when runny nose season starts.  Don’t rush out and buy everything you think your child will need because you may end up spending more than necessary.
  • Back to school sales.  Staples, Wal-Mart, OfficeMax, Target, and many other stores have incredible back to school sales.  I have seen crayons, pencils, notebooks, and glue sticks for pennies!  Look at adds and listen for the best sales.
  • Reuse items from the previous year.  Lots of schools supplies are durable and can be used for a few years if not more.  Kids don’t need new pencil boxes and backpacks every single year.  Most backpacks are washable. If the backpack has no holes, toss it in the washer on the gentle cycle and be surprised at how much better it looks clean again. To convince your child to re-use an old back pack, add a small, inexpensive, clip on lip balm or hand sanitizer, etc to the zipper pull.  Take a look around your house and see what you can use again.
  • Go to thrift stores.  A thrift store is the perfect place to find great deals.  Yes, it takes more time and diligence, but you can save a great deal on clothes, shoes, backpacks, and more.  If you are willing to do some searching and invest some time you can save quite a bit.  Keep you eyes open for Goodwill’s  50% off everything Saturdays.
  • Ask your school about any programs and assistance they have available.Back to school  Many schools have help and programs you may not know about.  As a teacher, I was given a brand new backpack every year to pass along to a student in need.  My school also had a program that got brand new shoes for a number of students.  If money is extra tight make sure you explore the help that is out there and take advantage of the opportunities at your school or in your community.
  • Splurge on one item.  Discuss with your child what they think they need or want the most this year.  It may be a new pair of jeans, a backpack, sparkly pencils, or a Spiderman binder!  Let them be part of the decision making process then go get one really nice item that will get them ready for the school year.

Good luck!


Get your child ready for the first day of school


1)   Get back on a good schedule.  Summertime is glorious because you can stay up late and sleep in.  It’s easy to slip into a late to bed, late to raise schedule.  A week or so before school starts up again get them working back to their school schedule.  The first day can be a little nerve-wracking and a lack of sleep does not help with that!

2)   Help them get excited!  For most kids this is really easy.  Summer can feel long the last couple weeks and most kids are naturally ready to go back to school, be in a new class, meet new friends and connect with friends they have made in the past.  Simply talking about it will most likely get them excited and ready!  Share a story from when you were their age or in the grade they are about to start.  Tell them what you loved about their particular grade.

3)   Meet your teacher.  As far as I know, all schools have a time to go meet your new teacher.  Take your child and go meet their new teacher, see the classroom, find out who else is in their class, and get acquainted (or reacquainted) with the campus.  {Parents, don’t bombard your child’s teacher!  I understand that you may have concerns or issues that you want the teacher to know about, but I know how it feels to be on the teacher end.  If there is something you feel the teacher needs to know about your child, write her a note he/she can read later or set up a time to visit.  It’s overwhelming meeting 25+ new kids plus parents.  I got to the point where I would carry around a clipboard with all the kids’ names and would write notes, but even still it was a lot to take in.}  It’s a fun event and you and your child could even come up with a couple questions to ask the teacher.

4)   Talk about expectations.  Ask them what they think a good _________ grader would look, act, and sound like.  All teachers will go over expectations the first day (and then again the second, third, fourth, fifth day…) but it’s good for them to think about beforehand.  It’s also good for kids to hear similar ideas from a number of people.

5)   Talk about how to treat others.  Your child WILL be in a class with someone who is shy, someone who is mean, someone who is weird, someone who is different, and someone who doesn’t fit in easily.  Talk to them about being kind and friendly.  They do not need to be best friends with all those kids, but a little bit of kindness goes a long way!

6)   Build them up!  Remind them of why they are great and wonderful!  Point out their strengths!  Make them feel good about themselves.  A kid who feels great will perform well and rub off on those around them.

7)   Listen to their concerns, excitement, and fears.  Just like adults, kids need to feel like they are being heard.  Let them talk about how they are feeling.   You may not even need to say much.  A listening ear is priceless.  It also opens the door for future communication and conversations about school.

8)   Help them set goals.  Talk about what they feel their academic strengths and weaknesses are.  Then talk about educational goals they could set for the month, quarter, semester, or year.  Keep checking in throughout the year.  Kids improve like crazy when they feel accountable and responsible for their learning.

Good luck on the coming school year!