Raising Honest Kids: Tackling the Temptation to Lie

July 02, 2024

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In this episode, we address the question of how to explain the importance of honesty to children. We explore practical, biblically grounded strategies to help kids understand why telling the truth matters, even when it's hard. Join us as we dive into effective ways to teach the value of honesty, fostering integrity in young hearts despite the temptation to lie.


Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Hello, friends. Today's podcast question says, "how can I explain the importance of not lying?" This is a question that I'm sure many parents have thought through and have wrestled through because we know laying on this side of Genesis three, our children will naturally tell lies when they are in different situations. And we know even as adults, it's tempting for us to lie in situations that are difficult or uncomfortable. So how do we go about explaining to our kids the importance of not lying? That's the question we're going to dive down deep into today. I'm Elizabeth Urbanowicz. It's the host of the Foundation Worldview podcast, and the goal of this podcast is to answer your questions so that you can be equipped to get the kids in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview.

Now, as we think about this concept of explaining the importance of not lying or of telling the truth to our kids, I think there's two different situations we need to think of. First, we need to think of correcting their behavior in the moment when they lie, when they don't tell us the truth versus teaching in just regular everyday life situations. Now, when our children lie to us, we know that lying is a sin. It separates them from God, it separates them from those they're lying to. So lying does need to be corrected in the moment. It will require correction, it will require discipline. We need to be consistent at that because we are training our children how to live as they are growing up in our homes. However, in the moment of correcting behavior, that is not the best time to instruct our children in the truth of explaining why it's important to tell the truth, because at that time when we're disciplining them, when we're correcting them, it's a very emotionally charged situation. And brain researchers have found that during times that are very emotionally charged, when that portion of our brain is the part that's being most highly stimulated, it's going to circumnavigate the reasoning portion of our mind. And so we need to wait until emotions are not highly charged when we can talk to our kids about the importance of telling the truth, the importance of not lying. So we just need to think of those two different situations that in the moment when our children lie, we do need to provide correction. We need to provide discipline. But in that highly emotional charged situation, that is not the time to explain why lying is wrong, that that needs to be done at a time when emotions are not as high.

So it is really important that during times when we are not correcting them or disciplining them, that we do directly teach them the difference between truth and lies. Those of you who have followed Foundation Worldview for a while, you know that one thing we are very, very passionate about in this ministry is equipping our kids to understand the truth. We're just going to go through four different things I think we need to cover to equip our kids to understand why it's important to tell the truth and why it's important not to lie.

Now, the first thing we need to do is just define truth and define lies because sometimes we talk about words without actually explaining what they mean. And I found this in my own experience as a classroom teacher, that when I wanted my kids to think about the concept of truth, and I asked them what is truth? Consistently I was given the definition it's important to tell the truth. And so I would say, yes, it is important to tell the truth, but what is the truth? And it was so hard for the students got it placed in my care to actually define what truth is. So here at Foundation Worldview in our Biblical Worldview curriculum, our Comparative Worldview curriculum and our Careful Thinking curriculum, and all three of those curriculums in our Biblical Thinking track, we start off with the first unit in five lessons on truth, and we start off by defining truth. And in all three of those curriculums, we define truth as truth is what is real. Truth is what is real. We need this working definition so that our kids understand, okay, when they're told you need to tell the truth. What do we mean by truth? That truth is what is real. So when they're told to tell the truth, it means you need to tell what really happened. Then when we're thinking about lies in our Comparative Worldview curriculum, we have a whole lesson talking about how the first lie that we see in human history was actually told by Satan in the garden. Scripture tells us that Satan is the father of lies, that whenever he lies, he speaks his native language because he's a liar and the father of lies. So the first lie originated with Satan. Now we as fallen human beings, we are always going to be tempted to lie, to tell what is not real, what does not line up with reality.

Now at Foundation Worldview, we're passionate about getting kids' bodies and minds involved in searching out truth. So it's really important to get kids' bodies involved when we're talking about truth. So just two activities you can do with kids to help 'em understand the concept of truth. One thing that we recommend is setting up some kind of treasure hunt in your house or if you're in a classroom setting, in that classroom setting, and just find something that the kids in your care would really like, whether it's a piece of chocolate, a sticker, a date with dad, coupon, something like that, and hide that prize somewhere in your house or in the room where you're going to be working with these kids. Then write out different sets of instructions for finding that prize. And one set of instructions should be the true instructions. They should show what is real, where all of the other directions should lead them on a wild goose chase.

Then tell the kids before you send them out, some of these directions are true directions, some of them are not true directions. Then have them go out. Only one child or one group of children is going to actually find the prize, do not have a prize for everyone, or it ruins the lesson here, but then have them come back together and say, Hmm, why is it that just this one group found the prize? Or just this one child found the prize and read through the different sets of instructions and say, oh, these directions showed what was true. They showed what was real. So this person or this group found the prize. These instructions, they did not show what was true. They did not show what was real, so they did not find prize. If you would like just instructions on how to do this or you would like some guidance in doing this, if you go to FoundationWorldview.com and you request a sample of our curriculum, you can get a sample lesson from our Comparative Worldview curriculum. And that first lesson just covers this concept of truth and takes you through the treasure hunt activity so you can get actually free sets of instructions and all of that. So just check out a sample at Foundation Worldview.

Another example that you can use if you don't want to send kids out on a treasure hunt is you can actually have them create a recipe. Now this one is definitely much easier done within a home, and so just grab a recipe for a favorite family dessert and alter the recipe slightly. You can do something like you can quadruple the amount of salt or cut down by three quarters the amount of flour or completely remove the sugar, something that you know is going to make this dessert, not turn out the right way, and then follow the directions and then talk through with your kids. Why did we end up with a sticky salty mess? Why doesn't this taste as good? Oh, because we didn't follow the true instructions and then pull out the true directions and compare them. So just so our kids understand, oh, truth is what is real. It's showing where the prize really is or it's giving accurate instructions for how to create this dessert. Just also as a disclaimer, make sure your children do not eat anything that is dangerous for them to eat. Okay? If the instructions include raw eggs and not cooking something, do not let your kids eat it, okay? Don't let them do anything that would be dangerous or eat anything that would be dangerous for them.

We also want to help them see the relationship between God and truth. That what does truth have to do with God? For those of you who have taken your children through our Comparative Worldview curriculum, you know that in the third lesson of that first unit, we take them on a Scripture search where they actually look at what does the Bible have to say about truth? And we read all different verses and passages and Scripture that talk about God's relationship to truth. And then we summarize it as God is the source of truth, that because God himself is truth. All things that are true stem from him, he is the source of truth. So this is the first step that we want to have them understand a definition of truth versus lying. So we just want to make sure they have a full understanding of the concept of truth versus lies.

Second step, we need to discuss with them the consequences of believing lies. The consequences of not understanding the truth. And something we can do with kids of any age is just play the what if game. And then talk about what if we didn't know the truth about X? And with little kids, we can make it really simple. What if we didn't know the truth about the time that soccer practice started?

What if it starts at three o'clock and we thought it started at four, and then talk through what would be the consequences there? Well, we'd be of late to soccer practice every time we'd never get to practice. We might not get to play in the game because we weren't at practice with older kids. You can talk about more serious things. What if we didn't know the truth about the side of the road that cars drove down? What if in our country, cars drive down the right side of the road, but we thought they drove down the left side of the road? What might happen? We might get run over because we might look the wrong way when we're crossing the street. With older kids talk about, what if we didn't know the truth about a correct treatment for cancer? What if we thought that taking Advil would cure a serious form of cancer? What would happen? Well, the Advil might help our bodies feel better. It might help mask some of the symptoms of that cancer, but eventually we would die because the Advil is not going to take care of that cancer. So we just want them to think through these what if situations so that they understand that there are concrete consequences to believing lies.

The third step is we need to discuss with them the problem with telling lies. Okay? So we know that believing lies can have really serious consequences, but what's the problem with us telling lies? What's the problem with us? Not exactly including all of the details we should have? Or what's wrong with hiding the fact that we got a bad grade on the math test? Or what's wrong with making it seem like we didn't do anything wrong when we actually pushed our brother? What's the problem with telling lies? And a few things that we need to cover with them is first, if they understand that God is the source of truth, then we need to help them understand that lying goes against God's character, that God is truth. Truth stems from God. So when we lie, we are actually opposing God himself. That means that we are sinning against God. So when we lie, we are making a separation between us and God. We are cutting down that relationship with him. Now, if we've been forgiven by Jesus, if we've been reconciled to God, there is ultimately nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Jesus, but we are putting a hindrance between us and God.

We also need to help our kids understand that lying is sinning against others. It separates us from them. It cuts down our relationship with them, and then it leads to unintended consequences. That others aren't going to be able to believe us if we tell lies. When I was growing up, I had a problem that I still wrestle with, but not to the same degree that I did when I was growing up, is that I would embellish the truth. I wouldn't flat out tell something that was untrue, but I would take the truth and I would add some lies to it by stretching it. And what the consequence of that was is others not believing me. For example, when I would get hurt, when something would happen to me, I would be very, very dramatic and I would act like I was more hurt than I was. And you know what the consequence was? When I was seven, I broke my wrist and my parents did not believe I was actually hurt. I actually had to cry for more than six hours before they were like, Hmm, maybe we should take her to the doctor. And that was an unintended consequence of me consistently lying through embellishing the truth.

Another time when I was in seventh grade again, I was still very dramatic and I dislocated my neck and it landed on a nerve. I don't think I've ever experienced anything quite that painful since then. But because I was so dramatic and embellished the truth through telling lies, I hurt myself and my parents didn't believe me. So they went out and ran errands, and when they came back two hours later, I was still crumpled up in a heap on the floor and they're like, oh, maybe something's actually wrong. So we want our kids to understand that telling lies leads to unintended consequences. It goes against God's character. It's a sin against God that hinders our relationship with him. It's a sin against others that hinders our relationship with others, and it leads others to not believing us.

One thing that is important for us to cover then a fourth thing is highlight God's grace through Jesus. That God's grace through Jesus doesn't mean it's okay for us to lie. That sin always has to be paid for. And if we've trusted in Jesus, it means that Jesus has actually paid for that sin. Jesus bore the full weight of God's wrath on that cross that we might be forgiven. So we need to help our children understand that you know what? There are going to be some times where we lie. That doesn't mean it's okay. It doesn't mean we just sweep it under the rug or shrug our shoulders, but it does mean that we can turn to Jesus and we confess of that sin and we repent of it. We receive forgiveness through him.

So now I hope that for these steps that we've gone through, defining truth and lies, discussing the consequences of believing lies, discussing the problem with telling lies, and then highlighting God's grace, that this has given us a very broad picture of how we can equip our children to understand why we should not lie. Because you know what our culture does, our culture does, and sometimes even within the church, they just jump to step number three, discussing the problem with telling lies and saying, well, no one's going to believe you. No one's going to believe you. And so that's why you shouldn't tell lies. But the problem with that is that's just pragmatic. That's saying you're going to have unintended consequences. You don't want those consequences. So avoid the behavior. Yes, we do want our kids to tell truth. Yes, we want them to not tell lies, but we want them to do that for the right reason because they understand who God is and his relationship to truth and why that then means it's so important for us to tell the truth.

Actually, a couple years ago I was asked, I was approached by a very well-known Christian parenting organization to ask if I would write an article on the importance of equipping our kids to tell the truth. And basically the steps I just walked you through are the steps I wrote in the article. And then the organization came back to me and they said, oh, you know what? There's just too much theology in this. Our parents don't really need this. They just need the practical ins and out. And I said, I'm sorry. I don't write articles for parenting without theology in it. And I stuck to my guns. And in the end, it was a very amicable conversation, but we both walked away saying, okay, they're going to have to ask somebody else to write this article because I don't believe we can just go into the pragmatics of you shouldn't lie and you're going to be punished. It's going to have these unintended consequences that our kids, they need the foundation of understanding what truth is, how God relates to truth and why, because of that relationship, it is so important for us to tell the truth.

Well, that's a wrap for this episode. But as always, my prayer for you as we leave this time together is that no matter the situation in which you and the children God has placed in your care, find yourselves that you would trust that God is working all things together for your good by using all things to His Son. I'll see you next time.

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