Your child will face many circumstances as a teenager -- and throughout her life -- that require her to choose between an honest or dishonest route. Lead by example and show your teen, through hands-on activities and communication, how to incorporate honesty into daily life.
Use role-playing as an activity to teach honesty. Create scenarios for your teenager to practice being honest. Scenes you can act out include receiving too much change at the store, getting caught coming home after curfew or receiving the answers to an upcoming test. Allow your teen to practice what she would do or say in those circumstances. Give her guidance and allow her to ask questions if she is unsure about what to do when presented with circumstances that challenge her honesty.
Create an honesty contract with your teenager. Schedule time with your teenager to discuss and write the contract that both of you will sign. The contract should outline the behavior you expect from your teenager in regards to honesty. Some examples include being honest about what he is doing in his free time, lifestyle choices, school and relationships. Develop rewards and consequences based on the expectations outlined in the contract. An example of reward is to extend your teen’s curfew once per month when he is honest about his whereabouts for a full month. If you find your teenager being dishonest, you can take away cell phone or car privileges as a consequence. An honesty contract allows your teenager to know what is expected of him and what he can look forward to with honest or dishonest behavior.
Sit down as a family to discuss the importance of honesty. Trust is extremely important in healthy family dynamics, so talk about the positive effects of honesty and the negative effects of dishonesty. Being honest in difficult circumstances can be challenging, especially when your child fears being shamed. Open up to your teenager about how you will react in a difficult circumstance. In a PsychologyToday.com article, Joanne Stern, a psychotherapist in family and couples counseling, suggests parents put more emphasis on your child's honesty than on the consequences for his dishonest behavior 1. Recognize that your child confessed to dishonest behavior, and if discipline is still necessary, implement a punishment fairly while still recognizing his honest behavior. Encourage your teenager’s honest behavior rather than rushing into a punishment so he recognizes the benefit of being honest.
Consequence Index Cards
Demonstrate the positive and negative effects of decisions your teen might face that involve honesty. Take two index cards and write down a scenario with two different decisions, such as deciding to cheat on a test and deciding to study for a test. On the back of the index cards, write down the outcome of each decision. For example, on the index card with the cheating scenario, write down possible consequences such as getting detention, failing the class and losing the respect of teachers and parents. On the index card with the studying scenario, write down a positive outcome such as getting a good grade and gaining the respect of teachers and parents.
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