A few months ago I was invited to participate in a parenting panel for a weekly radio show, and the presenter asked me about young kids “tricking” and if this is a serious case of not telling the truth. (You can listen to the full program here.)
I think things are not always as easy as a “truth” or a “lie” in kids’ minds. Make-believe is a very real part of the life of young children and I personally feel that the nature of a “lie” probably indicates how seriously you should take the “trick.”
Was the “lie” told to have fun? Or was it to avoid getting in trouble? You would probably address these situations quite differently.
In my opinion, however, we should not leave discussions about telling the truth until the time we think our children have told a lie. Emotions may run high during any given situation where someone’s truthfulness is in question and the child is probably going to be quite attached to what they have said, defending it no matter what.
If we create playful and hands-on situations to learn about what truthfulness is, before it is needed, then we can help the children distinguish for themselves what “telling the truth” actually means. This way they are prepared with the necessary knowledge when they are faced with a situation in which they are required to take “truth” seriously.
Here are some fun ways to teach children about telling the truth – to prepare them for real life situations when truthfulness is important:
1. Be storytellers
Talk about how some things you hear about are not actually true, but make-believe.
Deciphering truth from fantasy can be tricky, especially things we see on TV. Make up a fantastic story with your child about things that could not be true – such as flying, living in the clouds, or meeting animals that talk. Explain that these stories are fun, but they are not reality (what is true in the real world). Some things we see such as shows with cartoon characters, or hear about like fairies or monsters, are not actually true but “made-up” stories. Discuss when it is okay to pretend and explain that sometimes it is important for us to tell the truth – to say what is actually real.
2. Play a game called “True and False.”
Create signs and learn about discovering truth for yourself.
Make two signs which say “True” and “False” (or T and F if your child cannot read yet). You may like to simply use pieces of paper, or index cards taped to a popsicle stick. Show your child which sign is “true” and which is “false,” and explain what the words mean. Now tell your child some things that might be true or untrue while they hold up the correct sign for what you say. You can take turns where they say things and you hold up the signs, as well. This game reminds us that we should always use our own knowledge to decide what’s true – we do not have to believe without thinking for ourselves. Sometimes we may even need to ask for help and learn new things to discover truth — such as when someone says a statement which is not clearly true or false to us (such as “I am ten feet tall” when we do not know how much ten feet is). Knowing when to ask questions, and remembering to use our minds when we hear things, is important for investigating what is actually truth.
3. Role play with puppets.
Learn what it means to make promises and how it feels when they are broken.
Have a puppet say various promises like, “I will help you put away your toys” or “I will sing a song for you” and have the puppet perform what he said he would. Then use another puppet to do the opposite – say they will do something (such as get a snack or do a dance) and then not do what they said they would. Talk about the importance of doing what you say you will do. This is a good opportunity to review the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Just be sure the version you read is age-appropriate, because some versions of this story can be sad for young children! The Boy Who Cried Wolf (Flip-Up Fairy Tales) is our family’s favorite (Amazon affiliate link). Talk about how important it is for us to tell the truth so that people can trust us.
4. Create a storyboard.
Learn about how you can sometimes be nervous about telling the truth, but that the effort is always worth it.
Draw four boxes on a piece of paper. In the first one, draw a child breaking something and feeling nervous about what would happen. In the second, draw how the child told the truth about what happened. In the third, draw how the parent reacted. In the fourth, draw how the parent helped the child fix what they broke. Tell the story to your child or ask them to tell the story using the pictures. Discuss how it can be hard to tell the truth, but that being truthful is always best. Explain that parents may be sad or disappointed by something that happened, but that they always want their children to tell the truth. A parent will do their best to help the child through a situation, and will be very proud when the child tells the truth even when it was hard.
Will guiding your child through these activities mean they tell the truth every time? Probably not – childhood is all about learning, after all. But you as a parent will have a wider framework for discussing truthfulness with your kids if they have many experiences to think about what it means as a character trait… as opposed to thinking they should tell the truth simply because mom or dad told them to. Most importantly, “truthfulness” can seem like a fun thing – a useful thing, instead of something that they got in trouble for not practicing.
The more children understand about positive character traits, the better the decisions they will be able to make for themselves.
If you liked these activities, you may like to check out my ebook Playing with Purpose: Character Building Made Fun with over 100 activities to teach children about positive character traits. Find out more on this page.
How have you taught your children about truthfulness?
You may also enjoy…