Honesty | Teaching Self-Government



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"I have two boys ages 7 and 4.  My 7yo has developed a couple problems: stealing and lying.  I think that I/we have been making the problem worse in the way we have handled it.  We also have a HUGE problem with not minding.  He is a very stubborn child and will not help us when trying to come up with consequences for his actions.  He says either, "I don't know" or "give me a spanking" or something like that.  Those are NOT working, he seems to get worse with each consequence. We have talked about a family vision and that has helped tremendously in playing with and interacting with his brother and also in giving me a reason to not play with friends (which has also been a problem). 

My questions for you are what should we do with the family meeting?  I want to sit with them and talk about what consequences should come from choosing to steal and lie. They seem to be so young and my 7 yo has not helped much in the past.  What can I say to encourage him to decide without it feeling like it is MY consequence/punishment?

Thank you for your time!"

First off,  age 7 is a really normal age to experiment with dishonesty.  Age 4 will follow whatever seems to work for age 7.  Over at the top right of this page, you will see a bar where you can type in subjects to be looked up.  Type in Communicating Honestly.  A while ago I wrote a very long entry on honesty and how to teach it.  The title of the article was "Communicating Honestly".  It should be helpful.  If you need more info, let me know. 

It's fantastic that you are trying to involve the children in what consequences will most teach them to govern their own behaviors!  It sounds like they might not have enough experience with what it really means to govern their own behaviors, and looking at their own actions and feelings to really know what kinds of consequences would help them the most. 

Since you are just starting out, I would recommend that you and your husband decide upon your four consequences that will be used for regular teaching and then decide upon one for dishonest behaviors.  Ours is 30 minutes of hard work.  I talk about that in the previously mentioned article. 

Someone who lies must get caught all the time; this is very important.  Pray to have the Spirit tell you when they are lying, so that you can teach to the behavior every time.  Don't feel "put out" about it either, because a controlling child could think that even though they got caught they still had control over you and that was worth the lie. 

With my dishonest youth I set a specific time aside every day for an honesty check up.  We would sit down and talk about all the honest things they said and did that day and all the dishonest things they said and did that day.  This conversation time, separated from any incident, really helped them focus on being honest throughout the day. 

I used to be dishonest.  Hearts can be changed.  Mine was.  Just nip it now, because the longer a person lies, the more it becomes a habit that they soon can't even control. 

As far as not minding goes, teach them to follow instructions, and that should help with that.  Mastering the four basics should solve that problem.  Just be really consistent!  They must experience cause and effect to want to change their behaviors on their own.   


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