Isn’t it great to see a group of young people that appreciate Honesty. I am encouraging each person at Balanced Life Skills to ask themselves, “How did I show honesty today?”
For many families, honesty is a non-negotiable virtue family members must live up to. Along with trustworthiness, integrity, justice and truthfulness all are important in our relationships. Yet, we also need to practice our tact, peacefulness, courtesy and tolerance. Our job as parents is to help our children understand how to balance these virtues. It is important for their social manners.
One example may be when our child receives a gift from a relative or friend. They may already have or perhaps they do not like what they received. If we are not using our tact it would be easy to hurt the feelings of the presenter of the gift. No doubt they are giving you something that they believed would make you happy. Teaching our children to use tact when a situation like this comes up is key to their social manners. They might say, “Thank you” in a sincere manner. They recognize the intention of the giver. Their response should make the other person feel appreciated for their thought.
Beyond social manners, there are times when honesty is not safe. We want our children to know that safety calls for caution. Certain private information about ourselves or family we will not divulge to a stranger.
- Phone number
- What school we attend
- Answering the door when parent is not available
- Giving help to someone we do not know
The next question you need to discuss with your child is what is a stranger. You do not want to scare them of everyone that they meet. So think about how you would do this and what rules you may set that would help them decide. This is a different discussion than on honesty that we are talking about today. I will write a post on helping children identify strangers and link it here.
“If you cheat in practice, you’ll cheat in the game. If you cheat in the game, you’ll cheat in life.” This is a not so famous quote of Vince Lombardi, a very famous hall-of-fame football coach. He was working with professional athletes and talking about cheating. Any kind of dishonesty that we are willing to do in small situations, we will be willing to do in the bigger parts of our life.
- If you are willing to lie to your friend, mother or father, you will lie to anyone.
- If you are willing to steal for your employer, you will steal from your employer.
- If you are willing to omit the truth from your parents, you will cover actions with omission from anyone else that you feel the need to protect yourself from consequences.
If I lie, steal or cheat it is likely that I will be caught and have to face the consequences that come. If I steal from my friend, I will lose their friendship and trust. If I cheat on taxes, I will have to pay a very high penalty. Those are the natural consequences that occur.
What about the consequence of how I feel? When asked, most kids know that they are going to feel bad, scared, nervous if they lie, cheat or steal. What they do not realize is that being dishonest often enough cauterize our conscious. We will stop feeling the pain of being dishonest. It will become calloused. Soon we are able to do anything without feeling guilt. We begin to lose our ability to care for others and their feelings. Dishonesty may begin by harming others, but ends up making us the victim. We lose respect and trustworthiness, for ourselves and from others.
Being honest is the best way. We do not worry about getting in trouble. We worry about doing the right thing, because it is the right thing to do!
When talking to both students and parents about honesty, we focus much of the conversation on the words we speak, telling the truth. However 85% of students reportedly engage in some kind of academic dishonesty before graduating high school. Just like with the spoken truth, most parents do not believe their child would cheat, and are shocked when they find out it is taking place.
Why does cheating take place in schools with students whose life does not depend on the grade they receive? The number one reason is that students have been influenced to believe that “their lives’ do depend on it. When grades and placement in class becomes more important than learning and experiencing the material being taught, students will cheat to improve their standing.
When the focus is put on the “bad grade” versus the effort put into the subject, we get cheating. When parents are embarrassed by their child’s performance, even if they say to their child that the grades do not matter to me, the student perceives the underlying message and do not want to disappoint, themselves or their parents.
In addition to those factors, a child who has had issues with impulsiveness may be more likely to take the shortcut to a better grade. It is the culture of some schools that “everyone cheats” so for me to keep up, I must do so also. Some schools have even had administrators caught cheating to make the student grades look better.
Want to change those pressures? Teachers nor parents should ever say, students need to learn something “because there is a test on Friday”. Students should be shown the value of the lesson to them. When learning is emphasized for the value of learning, when effort is valued over grades, when teachers and parents teach to the diverse needs of the student, students enjoy the lessons and the pressure is not as great on them to get good grades.
One final note: The pressure of getting into a “good college” is overrated. The good college for any student is the one that fits them the best. It is not the one the parent went to, nor the one that will impress your friends. Sometimes it is one that you have never heard of and won’t put you in debt for the rest of your life.
Our job as parents is to teach morals, values and ethics, all of which are laid on the foundation of the virtues and character that we at Balanced Life Skills promote to our students. Be your best, compete with yourself and live a full life mastering your passion.
Honesty is a virtue that all parents value, especially when it comes to their children. We expect them to tell us the truth, to be forthcoming in all of their situations. We expect that they understand that honesty is the best choice.
The first time they tell us something that is not true, as a parent somehow we are surprised and we can begin to doubt our parenting. We start asking ourselves about who they are playing with that they would learn such a skill, or what have we done that makes them feel like they need to lie.
Then comes the big question – Am I a bad parent?
Take a deep breath.
- When a child chooses to not tell the truth – well it is not necessarily about you the parent. They may be lying because they see the situation or what they did differently than we do as parents. They may believe they did something today – because they have done it so many other days, that surely they did it today too. Remember kids idea of time is different than our own.
- This may be an attempt to cover up what happened, trying to save face. Children want to be seen as good in the eyes of the adults in their lives – especially their parents. They do not want to disappoint them. So a child who perceives themselves as disappointing their parents on a regular basis may think this may lessen the count of mistakes by one.
- Finally they may see telling this untruth as a problem solving tool. Undeveloped brains do not think things all the way through. Let be real, developed brains sometimes do not think things through.
Our job as a parent is to grow this virtue in ourselves and our children. Have conversations about the virtues that are important to you. If honesty is one of them, here are a few suggestions:
- Be a good role model. Talk about the use of honesty and how it can be difficult at times. Then be willing to give examples of your own honesty or lack and the results.
- When your child is honest about something that may have been difficult, praise the honesty. Say to them, “I really appreciate your honesty when you admitted hitting your sister. What do you think you can you do now to help you show more gentleness with your sister?”
- Be compassionate and stick to your virtues. We can be forgiving and at the same time emphasize that honesty is a core value of our home.
PARENTING IS HARD but with an emphasis on the important virtues in our home we can bring out the best in our children and ourselves.
Each month we will discuss one gift of character with all of our students. This month the word is Honesty. This life skill will be defined in the following ways for our students.
Young students: Honesty means: I show and tell the truth!
Older students: Honesty means: Being straightforward and truthful in words and actions.
We are not your typical after school activity, in fact we are an education center, working with students on physical self defense skills, while empowering families to bring out the best in our children and ourselves – through the martial arts. We believe every child has 52 gifts in them already. They only need to be taught how to grow and use them in their life. Balanced Life Skills serves parents, teachers and students to reach that goal.