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Teaching Honesty

Teaching honesty to children should not always be based on “catching” your child in a lie. Here are some ideas you can use anytime.

Truth or Lie?

(Adapted from:

Try this game to emphasize that truth is based on facts and to make sure your child understands the difference between truth and lies.

Use actions to demonstrate a fact. Then, make a statement to see if your child can tell you if it’s true or not.

For example:
Point to your head and say: This is my foot. (Not true)
Eat a cookie and say: I didn’t eat the cookie. (Not true)
Spill some milk on the table and say: I spilled the milk. (True)

Or, use facts that children know.

For example:
I have the world’s biggest swimming pool at my house. (Not true)
Eggs come from chickens. (True)
Our TV is as big as the screen at the movies. (Not true)
The sky is green. (Not true)

Talk about what makes these statements true or false. Why is it better to tell the truth than to tell a lie?

Stories About Honesty

There are many stories that will help you talk about the good reasons to tell the truth and why lying does not work.

  • “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”
    This classic story tells of the young shepherd who cried “wolf” to see if the villagers would come help protect his sheep. The villagers all came running to the field, but there was no wolf. The boy cried “wolf” twice more, the villagers came running, and still there was no wolf. Everyone went back to the village grumbling.

    Then, the shepherd saw the wolf coming over the hill and began to shout, “Wolf! Wolf! Wolf!” But, no one came. They knew the boy had lied several times before. They could no longer believe or trust the boy. So, the wolf ran away with all the sheep.

    Note: Check out “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” on PBS’ Between the Lions.

  • “The Empty Pot” by Demi (1990, Henry Holt and Company)
    In this Chinese tale, a young boy named Ping is an excellent gardener. His flowers and vegetables are always the most wonderful. Imagine how excited he was when the old Emperor called all the young people together and said, “Whoever grows the most beautiful flower from the seed I give you, will become Emperor.”

    Each young person got a pot and a seed from the Emperor and went home to make the flower grow. Ping watered the seed, gave it fresh soil, fertilized it, but still no flower grew. When it was time to bring the pots and flowers back to the Emperor, Ping’s seed had not grown at all. But, all the other pots were filled with beautiful flowers.

    The Emperor looks at each flower. Then, he stops at Ping’s empty pot and smiles. “You will be the next Emperor. The seeds I gave everyone would not grow. You are the only one who was honest and brought back the pot with the seed you had received.”

    Note: Check out “The Good Seed” on PBS’ Between the Lions.

  • Books: After reading each book, talk with your child about why these stories came out all right in the end.

    Franklin Fibs by Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark (1992, Scholastic Paperbacks)
    Franklin fibs and finds himself embarrassed and in trouble.

    The Berenstain Bears and the Truth by Stan and Jan Berenstain (1983, Random House Books for Young Readers)
    Brother and Sister Bear lie to Mama when they accidentally break a lamp. And, the lie grows bigger and bigger.
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Updated on 4/5/2013