Teaching the fruits of honesty to a child - help! how?

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Teaching the fruits of honesty to a child - help! how?

Postby Alobha » Tue Oct 09, 2012 9:03 pm

Hi everyone,

my nephew just entered elementary school a few weeks ago and is developing a habit of lying about small things but does so persistently. At some point, my sister (her mother) does not notice the lies at first but only finds out accidently. She told me I was free to teach him about this but yet have to come up with a good idea.
I'm not a friend of approaches that focus on scaring children off so that they desist from lying because of fear. Like you will get taped to the table if you don't behave while eating or you will get your mouth washed with soap if you continue using bad words.

So, there are two aspects I guess would be helpful: 1. Teaching about the advantages of honest and nice speech 2. Teaching about the disadvantages of lies and bad speech.

Thoughts I thought I could do:
1a. Inquiring how it feels when people talk nicely to him, make compliments, are honest and are friendly in general. --> asking him how other people may feel when he is talking friendly and nice, makes compliments and is honest and friendly in general --> encourage him to try it out --> make a game out of it or make a deal that we both talk nicely for the day.. (?)
1b. Tell him a story where honesty and lies are the core theme, but I don't know any good ones.

2a. We were learning some magic tricks together (making coins disappear behind the hand..) the other day and there are a few more tricks we could try out next time. He enjoyed showing these tricks to others and it would be a good starting point to ask him what the difference between a magic trick and a lie is (and basically discovering with him that magic tricks don't hurt or upset anyone, but lies do. If one lies, one fears that one is caught, if one is caught there is lots of trouble, other people will be sad and upset and nobody needs this. Magic tricks are there to make other people laugh and smile, that's why we both like them!)
2b. A story, a fable where lying turns out to hurt people or create a lot of trouble. I don't know any good story suitable for that.
2c. Telling him that I heard he was lying to his mother and asking him why (too confrontative?). Pretty direct approach of course.

So.. that's about what I came up with. Honestly. I have no idea if any of that would work and it's unfortunate that I don't have any good child-stories about this particular topic at hand. I would greatly appreciate some input (especially from people with kids) on how the issue of lying can be dealt with skillfully and how the value of honesty can be taught to a child.

Thank you very much!
Alobha
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Re: Teaching the fruits of honesty to a child - help! how?

Postby Ben » Tue Oct 09, 2012 10:00 pm

Greetings Alobha,

In my experience the vast majority of kids I have had contact with, including my own, lie. I actually wonder whether its a developmental stage when kids learn to lie.
Training kids out of lying is a real challenge. I think your ideas are good. My advice to you is to save any words you have to when you catch the child. Otherwise the child may not listen - more so if it appears you are lecturing them. Depending on how old the child is - you might want to investigate some of the stories in the jatakas. Some of them were made into picture books. If the child is older then I may skip the jatakas and be rational and link the act of lying with its likely consequences and to take a few minuntes to think about the effects of any action before doing it.
All the best,

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: Teaching the fruits of honesty to a child - help! how?

Postby perkele » Thu Oct 11, 2012 10:44 am

2c. Telling him that I heard he was lying to his mother and asking him why (too confrontative?). Pretty direct approach of course.

I think that's a good approach.
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Re: Teaching the fruits of honesty to a child - help! how?

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Oct 11, 2012 11:51 am

Ben wrote:In my experience the vast majority of kids I have had contact with, including my own, lie. I actually wonder whether its a developmental stage when kids learn to lie.

I think learning to lie is a normal developmental stage - part of the process of discovering that other people are different from oneself and have different ideas in their heads - but settling into a habit of lying is not.
The child can usually be brought to realise that lying is usually unnecessary and sometimes hurtful and dangerous. Once that is achieved, s/he will be able to balance the costs and benefits of lying vs truth-telling in a normal adult way :tongue: and choose according to the situation.
As for stories, I have vague memories of Pinnocchio, and I'm sure there are 'teaching stories' amongst the European fairy tales, e.g. The Boy Who Cried 'Wolf!'

:namaste:
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Re: Teaching the fruits of honesty to a child - help! how?

Postby Sam Vara » Thu Oct 11, 2012 12:06 pm

Hi Alobha,

I agree with Ben in saying that this is a developmental stage. Nearly all children do this when they first go to school, probably because they are exposed for the first time to a wide range of different narratives and possibilities.

They grow out of it, and it is completely harmless. They are experimenting with true and false accounts. Distinguishing between true and false accounts is the basis for understanding fiction and using one's imagination, so they have to exercise these mental muscles.

My advice is to let the child know that you know what the "real" truth is, but to be as gentle and understanding as possible. Play along with it, with a wink and a funny face. Then say "Yes, but I don't think it really happened that way...", or whatever.

If I told you a deliberate lie, you would be upset, and rightly so. But if you gave me a meal and I rubbed it in my hair you would also be upset. And if I dribbled all over your copy of the Majjhima Nikaya you would be upset. Likewise waking up the cat by hitting her over the head with a toy. But these are things children do, and they mainly turn out just fine...
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Re: Teaching the fruits of honesty to a child - help! how?

Postby Alobha » Fri Oct 12, 2012 12:37 pm

Ben wrote: I actually wonder whether its a developmental stage when kids learn to lie.

Yes it is and it seems like many go through it around the age of 5. From a pedagogical perspective it would be useful when the child learns that lies do not have positive consequences (like, negative feedback from others.) and that lying itself is something to abstain from, not just from getting caught! (ie putting more effort into lies or only avoiding lying to people where one is likely to get caught.).

I'm not so worried, but it seems to irritate my sister. I'll tell her that this is just a normal developmental stage and I'll wait with the talk with my nephew until I witness one account of lying from his side. We'll see!
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