Although you have always taught honesty to your kids, it seems that those past lessons have gone out the window upon reaching adolescence. Now it seems your once angelic kids are fibbing to you about whether they did their homework, or telling tall tales to their friends about the non-existent celebrity they met on the family vacation. Honesty tends to falter as adolescents test their limits with you and try to fit in during those tumultuous tween and teen years. Continually reinforce being honest with your kids through age-appropriate activities that spell out the consequences of dishonesty.
Books About Honesty
Books can help make approaching the topic of honesty with your older, adolescent-aged kids easier and can help facilitate conversation. One book to check out, for kids 9 and older is "Liar, Liar," by Gary Paulsen, which follows the narrative of a 14-year old who likes to lie and is good at it, until his lies cause major consequences. Another book to consider, ideal for tween girls is "The Secret Identity of Devon Delaney," by Lauren Barnholdt, also for kids 9 and older, which follows a girl whose lies get bigger and more complicated when a summer friend moves to town.
Honesty in the Media
Use examples in the media to demonstrate honesty and dishonesty to your kids. Rip out a few magazine advertisements and analyze them with your kids. For example, an advertisement for a whole grain kids cereal doesn't mention the fact that despite it made from whole grains, also contains 50 grams of sugar. Analyze the political ads of two opposing candidates and use research to fact-check the ads to see how misleading they are. Discuss how the kids feel about being misled when analyzing media examples and explain that you and your spouse feel that same when they are dishonest with you and that it makes you feel like you cannot trust them.
Web of Lies
Kids often feel as if little white lies won't hurt anyone when in reality, they can turn into major lies. Take different color yarn and wind it all over furniture and objects in a room to create a giant, tangled web. For each color of string, attach notes at various points on the string, starting with a simple white lie. The kids will each follow a string and find the notes to see how a small lie gets bigger, more complicated and has consequences. For example, one thread could start with a lie about having homework finished, which could result in being too tired to get it done later, resulting in not being prepared for a pop quiz, which could cause his grade in the class to go down, resulting in being benched on his soccer team until his grades improve.
Roleplay Honesty Decisions
Invite some of your kids' friends over to role-play scenarios in which they are faced with making a decision to be honest or dishonest. Write out different two-person scenarios, such as when a cashier gives you too much change back, or telling a friend a shirt fits nicely when it is obviously too tight, or when a friend offers to let you cheat on the test. Call up two kids at a time and have them pick a scenario card out of a hat. The kids quickly put together a skit doing first the dishonest option. Discuss all the consequences that could happen, then have them re-do the skit with the right decision. Another idea is for you and your spouse to act out the skits, which is sure to give the kids a good laugh as you attempt to act like adolescent-aged kids.