Lying is a universal sin. Psalm 58:3 tells us the wicked “go astray from birth speaking lies.” We are all affected. As parents, sooner or later, we must address the problem of lying in our children. As with all such character qualities, this involves both positive and negative methods. God tells us to “put off” sin and to “put on” virtue. (Ephesians 4:22-24, Colossians 3) Our methods are both prohibitive (telling our kids what not to do) and directive (telling them what to do). I will focus on the latter and give you some of the ways we discouraged lying by elevating truth in our home.
- We Speak the Truth
Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,”
for we are members of one another. Ephesians 4:25
When raising our boys we often used the phrase, “We speak the truth.” Honesty is foundational to a life of integrity and righteousness. Dishonesty is pervasive in our hearts and can take many different forms. We taught our kids that “we speak the truth” in word and action and we taught them the many subtle ways that lying and deceit can creep into our lives. In a conflict between siblings, before we allowed them to share their side of things, we reminded them, “We speak the truth.” They knew we stood ready to make a righteous judgement but that we expected complete honesty from them. If I needed to question them about their school work or chores, I often prefaced my questions with a “Remember, we speak the truth.” If there seemed to be any hesitation in sharing information, if I received an “I forgot,” “I don’t know,” or “I don’t remember,” they would again hear the standard of truth. As a general rule we did not accept these kinds of statements as truthful because most of the time my kids didn’t forget, really did know and did remember! Since they were trained to the standard of honesty, it made it easier to show grace when they truly did forget because they were not characterized by making excuses. We preferred this phrase over saying “Don’t lie” because it pointed them to the virtue and made it easy for us to praise them when they did the right thing!
- Training in Righteousness
Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,
And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. Psalm 51:6
We trained our boys in times of non-conflict in the truth from God’s Word. Teaching them when they weren’t in trouble emphasized how important honesty is to us. We made instruction progressive. As our children grew in maturity and understanding, we would take them deeper and define honesty and integrity in more nuanced ways. Speaking truth wasn’t just answering what was specifically asked, it was:
- giving the whole story without spin
- setting the record straight even when doing so was less advantageous
- honoring a copyright even when no one else would know
- doing a job all the way, even in areas that would go unseen.
Our goal was to raise men who could apply truth to every situation and rightly discern the path of righteousness. This took time and intentionality.
- Telling Life Stories
“…continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you wisdom …” 2 Timothy 3:14-15
In addition to giving examples from Scripture, we spoke the truth ourselves and we told our boys real-life stories from our own experience. I would share the time I struggled to tell the truth about a mistake I made at work, but in the end I was so glad I was honest. Or a time as a child when I chose to lie and suffered negative consequences when all was found out! My husband told them about the time he was tempted to lie by omission, allowing his boss to think he had done something he had not. Even when it was more advantageous to let his boss think so, Daddy told the truth anyway. Such anecdotes help our kids to choose right because we have given them an example to follow (or not follow 🙂 Modeling truth for our kids helps them to apply and act on God’s words and principles for themselves. It builds on the power of your relational influence and encourages them to choose rightly when they are tempted.
- Praise for Honesty
“The Lord detests lying lips, but He delights in those who are truthful” Proverbs 2:22
God is pleased when we speak the truth. We made a point of praising our children for speaking the truth especially in times when we knew it was difficult. There were times we would test their hearts by asking them to tell us things when we already had the information, just to be able to praise them and reinforce the importance of being honest. We taught them that honesty is the basis for trust in any relationship. The more we could trust them the more freedom they could enjoy. Truth was highly valued and highly praised in our home.
Lying is a universal sin all parents must confront. What are you doing proactively to counteract it? By elevating truth through instruction, praise, and example, we give our kids the best opportunity to obey and learn to speak the truth.
Beth Ann Plumberg has been a contact mom since 1995. She has been married to Chuck for 36 years. They are active in teaching parents in their local church. They have 4 grown sons, 4 beautiful daughters-in-love, 3 adorable grandchildren with #4 on the way!