Honesty is the best policy for children of any age, but raising trustworthy kids requires proactive parenting. As they evolve from preschool to high school, so will the temptations, be they broken vases or broken curfews. An excellent way to teach kids about trust and integrity is through games and lessons. Your school and church may already do this in the classroom. If not, many of these activities can be performed at home.
Talking to Your Kids
A casual sit-down discussion with your child can be an effective way to assess and possibly improve his honesty. Ask some hypothetical questions. For instance, ask how he feels when someone tells him a lie. Ask if lying can ruin a friendship, and to consider whether a single lie makes you a liar, or if it requires multiple lies. Also, talk about what it means to be trustworthy. For instance, ask what forms of behavior define a trustworthy individual. This line of questioning will work better with younger children. Teenagers usually have enough street smarts to give the answers that you want to hear. In their case, be sure to praise them effusively for showing integrity in difficult situations.
"The Consequence Game"
One classic game for teaching school-age kids to do the right thing is “The Consequence Game.” It requires nothing more than a set of flash cards. For one side of the index card, write down two alternative courses of action. On the other, note the consequences of each choice. For instance, invent a situation where a clerk at a candy store gives your child $10 in change by mistake. Your kid can either keep it or give it back. Let your child pick a response. Then, describe the consequences. Keeping the money makes him feel guilty about the clerk’s lost wages. Giving it back instills a sense of pride.
"Cat and Mouse"
In this game, one child is a cat. The other is a mouse. Both get blindfolded. A third party directs the mouse through a maze with audio signals. Sounds are matched to specific directions before the start of the game. For instance, a whistle means stop and a hand-clap signifies a right turn. The playing field is marked as well as the mouse hole. The object is to get the mouse to safety before the cat gets her. Besides providing entertainment, the game illustrates the importance of blind faith in dangerous situations. This would be ideal for elementary-age children.
Activities for Tweens and Teens
There are many other activities to help build trust among kids. They usually require two or more participants. In “Mine Field,” objects are scattered in an indoor or outdoor area. In pairs, one child verbally guides his blindfolded partner through the minefield to safety. The classic “Trust Fall” has been used successfully in groups of all ages. In this activity, a person intentionally falls backwards off a table into the arms and hands of the group. Each member of the group takes a turn as the faller. Other activities increase trust through physical and visual contact, such as looking into someone’s eyes for 60 seconds or holding their hand for an extended period.