In today’s fast-paced, wired world, all that separates us from sharing our guiltiest thoughts and darkest secrets with the rest of the planet is a single mouse click or finger stroke across a smartphone screen.
And kids today need to be taught early-on the difference between being honest and sharing too much, say experts.“Amid the din of oversharing, we mistake spasms of self-revelation for honesty. And in a time of constant confessional disclosures, we are losing our ability to self-reflect and be truly honest,” says Paul Wilkes, a filmmaker, religion and spirituality writer, and author of “The Art of Confession,” a new book that seeks to redefine confession for a multicultural, contemporary world.
But honesty is still the best policy. And here are some ways to teach this concept to those born after the advent of a social networking culture:
• Foster good communication: Your child is more likely to be truthful with you if you have a great relationship. You can strengthen that relationship by being approachable, not judgmental. Talk regularly. Make a family dinner a routine part of your life. Schedule game nights, movie nights and other enjoyable activities do with your children.
• Lead by example: Lying can be convenient, but resorting to dishonesty when talking to your children is always a mistake. You’ll risk normalizing deceit for an impressionable young person. Worse yet, your kids will have good reason to distrust you after you promise that the flu shot doesn’t hurt a bit.
• Encourage a culture of confession: If your child admits to wrongdoing, first be grateful for the honesty. While you must discipline him or her, the punishment shouldn’t be a deterrent for future confession. Hitting, shaming, and generally making your child feel bad will only inspire him to lie in the future. But instead of sending your children to their rooms to play video games, you can help them reflect on how to do better next time.
“Confession is not merely a clearing out of that which is wrong in us,” says Wilkes. “It is a realignment of what is best in us and an intention to live a better life.”
• Nip it in the bud: Bad habits can start early and are often hard to shake, so it’s never too early to correct dishonest behavior in your child. And you can help kids avoid lying by giving them fewer opportunities to do so. For example, if you know who made the mess, don’t ask “Did you do this?” Confront him or her directly about it instead.
• Use literature: There are many excellent fiction and non-fiction books that deal with ethical issues and honesty. Your librarian can help you find something age-appropriate to read and discuss with kids.
Though there may be no portion of the school day devoted to it, honesty can be taught. Make sure you don’t let your kids skip this lesson.