A full exploration of the ethical conundrums and practices of honesty can fill entire textbooks and college courses, but when you're talking about what honesty means to kids, keep it simple. Ask any school age child to define honesty and you are likely to hear some version of "telling the truth." Dig a little deeper and you can help your child make a connection between honesty and keeping promises, being trustworthy and taking responsibility for his own choices, as well.
Telling the Truth
The most basic definition of honesty on the tip of most kids' tongues is telling the truth. Though they might not always put it into practice, if you directly question a child, she will most likely say she knows that lying is bad and will compound her trouble once she starts lying, according to a short video, "Kids Define Honesty" at ChurchLeaders.com. She'll also likely believe that speaking truthfully from the start is the right thing to do.
Thomas Jefferson once said, "Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom." You have probably had occasion to tell your child that it is important to do what you say you will do. Kids can understand that keeping a promise is another form of honesty. If you promise to clean your room or help a friend with homework and don't follow through, then the promise is a lie. By keeping your promises, you build a reputation as an honest person who others can count on.
Talking Tree Books, publishers of "Talking with Trees," a series of character education books for kids, explains that honesty is more than simply speaking truthfully, "Honesty is in what you say ... and how you act." Most kids do want to earn the trust of their parents, teachers and friends but keeping promises is only one way of building a trustworthy reputation. With a little prompting, your child can probably list opportunities to be honest that build a character of trustworthiness. The Momilani Library lists ideas such as paying for items at the store instead of stealing, doing your own schoolwork and homework without copying or cheating and doing your chores at home without reminders.
Everybody makes mistakes or poor choices on occasion. But part of being honest is admitting when you've done wrong or caused a problem. The Momilani Library advises that honesty means owning up to your responsibility rather than blaming someone else or lying about it to cover your tracks.