Kids of all ages need opportunities to explore the effects of honesty and dishonesty. Start teaching them early, at about 3 or 4 years old. Psychotherapist Joanne Stern, Ph.D., suggests in the Psychology Today article, "Teaching Your Kids to Be Honest," that you let them know you value honesty and truth-telling. It's important to help your children realize victory earned dishonestly is not worth the loss to personal integrity. Enhance the honesty games and activities your children play by open discussions about the games and their feelings.
Three-year-olds have difficulty distinguishing between make-believe and reality, so find opportunities to reinforce the distinction. For example, when you are watching television together, point out which characters are not real such as dragons and witches or fairies. Make a memory game out of it by collecting pictures of these characters and pasting them onto cards. Make another set of cards from old family photographs. Shuffle the cards and turn them all face-down. Ask your child to guess whether the next card is a real person or a make-believe character. Then turn over the card and see if she can correctly identify it. Alternatively, make silly statements such as, "We live in a castle," and have her tell you whether the statement is true or not. Reward correct answers with points, stickers or a chocolate chip.
Elementary School Games
Young children can relate to stories with moral dilemmas. Turn the stories into games by presenting two versions of the same story, one that reflects honesty and integrity and one that does not. Ask your child to identify the honest one. For example, in the "Goldilocks" story, instead of walking into a stranger's house uninvited and helping herself to food, Goldilocks sits outside and waits for the bears to come home. The Values Education website suggests a version of Snakes and Ladders for older children. Prepare a set of cards that describes honest situations such as informing a store owner that you received too much change. Prepare another set that describes dishonest actions such as lying to a parent. A player draws a card when they approach a snake or a ladder. If the child pulls a "dishonest" card when he's at the top of a snake, he must go down, but can't descend if he draws an "honesty" card. Similarly, if she gets an "honesty" card at the foot of a ladder, she can go up, but not if she draws a "dishonest" card.
Games for Teens
Use ethical dilemmas that occur in the news as topics for a values-based discussion with your teen. Make a game of it by asking each family member to find a news item that demonstrates the importance of honesty and bring it to the dinner table each week. The rest of the family votes on the item that reflects the most honesty or dishonesty. Examine the short- and long-term consequences of making moral decisions in the "What Happens Next?" game. Ask your teen to describe a situation in which he or a friend faced a moral decision, but he doesn't tell the decision. The next player continues the story by describing an honest choice. The next player then describes the short-term consequences likely to follow that decision; the final player describes the long-term effects. Go around a second time, but start with a dishonest response to the situation. Parents can play along with their teens, describing moral choices that occur in their workplace.
Games for All Ages
"Two truths and a lie" is a game enjoyed by youngsters as well as adults. Have each family member think of three statements to share, two truthful and one not. The rest of the family guesses which statement is the lie. Teens can share anecdotes about events at school such as, "My friend got in trouble with the principal because she walked out before assembly was dismissed." Younger children can make simple statements such as, "I didn't wear my blue sweater today because I couldn't find it." Play the "What if?" game, a variation of "The Consequences Game." Create age-appropriate scenarios or retell the plot of a movie or television show, then pose the question. For example, after describing an incident about a student who is caught cheating on a test, probe the kids to elicit awareness of the effects of honesty vs. dishonesty.