This family home evening idea comes from the book Teaching Your Children Values by Linda and Richard Eyre. I love their advice to give praise and the chance to start over. They say:
This gives children a quick second chance to be truthful. Don’t be anxious to “catch” your children in a lie. Instead, “catch them telling the truth” and praise them for it. If they do tell (or begin to tell) what you think is an untruth, interrupt and say, “Wait, think for a minute. Remember that it’s important to tell the truth.” Then let them start over.
For Preschool Age Children: The Demonstration Game
Ask, “Do you know the difference between something that’s true and false? Let’s see if you do. I’ll say something and you say, ‘True” or ‘False.’ Start with simple physical facts and move toward things relating to behavior. For example:
- The sky is green (Kids say, “False!”)
- (Point at foot) This is my foot. (Kids say, “True!”
- Ants are bigger than elephants
- We see with our eyes
- We hear with our nose
- Milk comes from chickens
- Take a cookie out of a jar and eat it. Then say, “I didn’t eat the cookie.”
- Drop a toy on the couch. Then say, “Yes, I left my toy on the couch.”
“Why is telling the truth better than telling a lie?” (So that everyone knows what really happened; so the wrong person won’t get blamed; so we can learn to do better, etc).
Methods for Elementary School Age: The Consequence Game
This game helps kids understand that the long term consequences of honesty are always better than the long-term consequences of dishonesty.
On one side of an index card or piece of paper, describe two alternative courses of action (one honest and one dishonest) along with the short-term consequences. On the back, write down the long-term consequences. Let the children read the front of the cards and decide what they would do. Then flip the card over and read the long-term consequences (read the long-term consequences for their choice first and then for the other choice). Here is one example the Eyres give.
You are at the store buying something and the clerk gives you $10 too much change. You keep it. After all, it was his mistake and not yours. You go into the toy store next door and buy some new handle grips for your bike.
When the clerk gives you the $10 extra change, you tell him he has given you too much and give the $10 back to him. He says thanks, but as you walk out, you start thinking about the new handle grips you could have bought with the $10.
You know the money wasn’t yours. You start to worry that the clerk will have to pay the store $10 out of his wages. Whenever you ride your bike, the new handle grips remind you that you were dishonest.
You feel good and strong inside because you were honest. Whenever you ride your bike, you remember that you need handle grips, but you also remember that you were honest.
The key to this is to let the short-term consequences of the dishonest act be good, the long-term consequences bad and vice versa for the honest act.
Along with this family home evening, we watched the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf on youtube. We discussed the consequences of the boy saying something that is false (on him, on the sheep, and on the villagers). During the week, we looked for situations of honesty and dishonesty and discussed the consequences at dinnertime each night.