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Dear Dr. Robyn,

My children know lying is wrong…so I was surprised…I caught my 6 year old son Danny in his first lie the other day. He told me he had his jacket on as he called to me before going outside to play with the boy next door. When I looked outside, there he was with no jacket in sight. How do I get him to do what is right and honest instead of what is easiest and fastest?

–Michelle, Woburn, MA

Dear Michelle,

I imagine that every parent remembers the day that their child was caught in their first great big whammy of a lie. You are certainly not alone! Your child is doing what is easiest and fastest. And likely, he doesn’t particularly feel like wearing a jacket. Being in Massachusetts, I know you get some cold weather!

One of the ways we can help our children make good, integrity based choices, is to arm them with questions that they can ask even when you are not around.

1.  What is my gut telling me to do?

Teaching children to listen to their gut is a very important skill. Our bodies often tell us what our minds try to disguise. If your child chooses right or wrong, ask them, what made you make that choice? What was your gut telling you to do? How did that feel? What will you do next time?

2.  Would I do this behavior whether someone was watching me or not?

In my opinion, the definition of good character is choosing to do the right thing whether all eyes are on you or all eyes are looking away. If your children can not answer “yes” to both scenarios, then they shouldn’t be doing it.

3.  Does the end justify the means?

This can be a tough concept for children. After all, if they want a high score on their book report and get a high score on their book report that should be a good thing, right? Yes, except when that high score is achieved through dishonest means such as cheating. We must be patient and encourage children to choose “right” over “best” when faced with a question of integrity.

4.   Could I look my parents/friend/teacher in the eye after I do it?

We often know when our children are lying because they can not look us in the eye. Help your children to understand that answering “no” to this question is a sign that they may be on the verge of making a poor choice.

5.  Could I look at myself in the mirror after I do it?

If our children feel that they could not look at their own selves in the mirror with pride after making this choice then they should take it as a warning! The impending choice is likely to give them a feeling of regret.

Here’s to your success!

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