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Teaching Honesty

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Do you as a teacher ever get frustrated when your children lie to you? Or try to trick you to let them do other things? It happens sometimes and it drives me up the wall! That is why I started teaching the importance of honesty, not through a moral argument. Instead, I found educating my students about the social consequences of lying to be more effective. 

I’m a one-on-one special education teacher, who works with children in their homes. More commonly called a SEIT. 

To learn about what that is, click here!

One day one of my students was in a horrible mood. It was right after we’d transitioned to remote learning (reason enough to be in a bad mood), and he’d just been caught playing a game on his computer while on a zoom call with me. 

There was crying and yelling and demanding to know why no one trusted him. 

Now, I had been working with him on lying for a while, and the moral argument about being a good person wasn’t working. However, when I heard him screaming about how he wanted people to trust him, I finally realized a great way to teach him why lying is bad.

People don’t trust you if you lie all the time. If you want people to trust you, stop lying. Hence my system of teaching children the social consequences of lying was born. 

It changed my method for teaching honesty, and I’m happy to share it with you today!

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This is the nickname I’ve given this method in my head. The Moral Method is what I call the standard version of teaching kids about lying.

Don’t do it or you’ll be a bad person. That’s the basic gist of the moral method. 

Sometimes a relevant religious belief will get thrown in there too. When I was a kid I went to Catholic School, and we were told that lying would get us sent to hell. Unless we begged God’s forgiveness.

Looking back on it that was kind of a messed up thing to tell a kid, which is probably why I’m no longer Catholic. I digress though. 

For some kids and some people it might. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re a devout person or took all those Disney Channel shows about honesty to heart like I did, then the promise of being a good person is enough for you.

In my head, I can hear my middle school frenemy coughing, “Nerd!” as I type this. This method would not have worked for her because she didn’t care about being a good person. She had other goals in mind.

So what does work on kids who don’t care about being a good person, but want something else?

For my middle school frenemy, she cared deeply about the adults in the room giving her freedom and trusting her, particularly her parents.

However, winning their trust proved difficult because she was always not doing something right, turning in homework late, getting in arguments with her teachers, or lying about something. 

When kids hit that upper elementary/middle school grade, they want more freedom from adults, but the adult in their lives are unwilling to give that freedom if the child cannot be trusted.

Lying costs trust! 

That is the best method I have found for teaching honesty. If you want trust and independence, don’t lie. Lying shows immaturity.

Great so we’ve established which method works for different kinds of people. How do I teach it?

Well, you can purchase my premade interactive slide show on white lies! 

Click here to purchase!

White lies are a great place to start because they are often the smallest lies that children tell the most often. Really that all of us tell the most often. 

My interactive slide show, asks students to consider what a white lie is when they might tell one, and what would happen if they are caught telling a white lie. 

Additionally, students get to practice deciding when to lie or tell the truth in five scenarios with clickable buttons!

It also goes over when it’s okay to tell a white lie because believe it or not, there are times when it’s acceptable. 

  • To not hurt someone’s feeling
  • Getting out of a dangerous situation

I find it’s important to keep any exceptions to social rules firm and concrete for students. The less grey area there is the easier it is for students with autism working on social skills to remember. 

If you decide to make your own lesson, make sure to have students establish what a white lie is, and practice when to tell one and when not.

Or if you want to save on prep time, you can purchase my pre-made interactive slide show by clicking here!

Right now you might be wondering how things turned out for that student in the beginning? 

Well, he was the first recipient of my slide show, and it lead to us having a great, nonjudgemental discussion about lying and why we might feel that impulse.

It took some time. The white lies did not stop overnight, but now when there was an incident we had common ground with which to discuss things, and he had a clear understanding of what natural consequences faced him when he lied.

That was years ago, and I cannot think of a time he’s lied to me in months. It taught me that being open and honest with my students about social skills from their perspective, rather than my own, was a more effective way of teaching not only honesty but all social skills.

Follow me on Instagram and send me a message letting me know how you learned honesty, how you like to teach it, and any success stories you have! I’d love to hear them!

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