Parents play a critical role in teaching their preschool aged children trust and honesty. The home environment is one of the first places that kids experience these values. Many parents may not realize how much they have already done for their children by providing a loving; comfortable home where they feel cared for, loved, and secure.
The earlier that parents instill these values in their children, the more likely that they are to stick as the kids grow older. It may seem like a daunting task to go beyond this basic level of trust. However, there are a few simple pieces of advice that can make a big difference for your kids.
Establishing rules and boundaries for children helps them learn right from wrong. With rules set in place, kids must make decisions to obey or disobey rules. It is imperative to set realistic rules that are appropriate for preschool age children. For example, a preschooler may not be able to clean his entire room unsupervised. However, he can learn to make his bed independently before he goes to school.
It is also important to set up rules and expectations that show that you trust your children. For example, preschool kids can pick out their own clothes for school. Completing these types of tasks on their own will help them develop independence as well as trust in themselves.
Offer a benefit for telling the truth
Sometimes parents punish children after they have done something wrong, but the punishment is for the wrong reason. This practice can lead to children not telling the truth because they’re worried about the consequences. Children must understand that they will be rewarded for telling the truth, even when they share that they’ve misbehaved. For example, a child will get in trouble for breaking a ceramic vase on purpose, but he will not get in as much trouble if he tells the truth about it.
Model trustworthy and honest behavior
Children learn behavior from the adults and other children that have a large role in their lives. If your relationships are based on trust, children will learn to instill this same value in their own relationships. You should also be conscious of your smaller actions and the effect that they may have on your kids.
For example, it can be tempting to tell a white lie to get out of an uncomfortable phone call or to avoid talking about a difficult subject with a friend. These lies may seem unimportant. However, getting in the habit of telling lies often leads to telling bigger lies. You don’t want your children to develop this same habit.
Don’t blame other people
Every adult has seen a child blame another child for an action that the first child is clearly responsible for doing. For example, a preschool aged boy may wet his pants and then try to blame it on another kid playing at the playground. It is easy to laugh at this naive attempt to pass the blame, but it is natural for people to blame others for something that goes wrong.
This issue goes back to the concept of providing a benefit for telling the truth. Ultimately a child will get in less trouble for taking the blame than trying to deny it and blaming another person.
Look for opportunities to grow
No one is perfect, children and parents alike. Even with the best of intentions, it is easy to fall into bad behavior patterns. If you see that your child is slipping, have a frank discussion with her without being accusatory or condescending. It is all too easy to start slipping dishonest comments into conversations or telling white lies to avoid certain situations. Your child may not even be aware that she is doing these things. Use examples from your own life during this discussion and talk about ways to change the behavior.
Seek out literary resources
There is variety of kids’ books that display the value of honesty including The Boy Who Cried Wolf retold by Katherine Evans, Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel, Tales of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, and The Berenstain Bears and The Truth by Stain Berenstain.