“Your mom won’t find out . . . and if she asks, just deny it.”
“My mom always find out . . . and I couldn’t lie to my mom . . .”
“Why not? She’s lied to you before . . .”
“My mom has never lied to me.”
“Sure she has, all parents lie.”
“Nope. Not mine.”
“I guarantee they’ve lied to you at least once.”
“They lied to you when they told you Santa was real.”
“Nope. Not even then. They told me the truth about Santa.”
This was an actual conversation between our son and a friend when they were teens. They both told me the whole story later. Our son was sixteen and driving, and we had a few “helpful guidelines” (umm . . . rules) for him to follow that his friend thought he should ditch. The friend was literally blown away by the fact that our son couldn’t think of a time when we’d lied to him.
When your child suddenly hits the teen years and is getting a bit more freedom, is when fostering loyalty and living with integrity can make a real difference in influencing their choices.
♥ Nurturing integrity requires daily, small choices for truthfulness that span a lifetime.
This isn’t a post on how to settle the Santa dilemma, and I’m not saying what your decision on that should be, but putting it simply: we chose to tell our kids about the actual, historical, Saint Nicholas because playing the “Santa game” was inconsistent with our commitment to be truthful. But nurturing integrity involves much more than that.
Our children watch us. They see and know whether our actions match our mouthed commitments. They know if we’re saying one thing and doing another. If you want your child to be truthful with you, they need to see you model truthfulness—not only with them but in all your relationships and in every area of your life. They need to hear you come clean with them and ask their forgiveness if you messed up, if you weren’t entirely truthful, or if you didn’t keep a commitment.
♥ Gaining your child’s trust nurtures integrity.
Living with integrity doesn’t guarantee that your child will always be truthful, but it gives you a solid platform to stand on when discussing any issue. If they’ve seen you consistently be truthful, watched you make hard choices that require integrity, perhaps even costly ones—they know they can trust you.
♥ Fearing the bondage of deceitfulness, more than the consequence of truthfulness, nurtures integrity.
If your child develops the habit of lying to cover up bad behavior or to avoid something he doesn’t want to do, don’t overreact or threaten. Lying is not the root issue—it is merely a sinful manifestation of the root issue. When you realize your child is lying, explore his motives and deal with the real problem: greed, laziness, jealousy, etc.
Walk your child through the layers of deception that occur when one lie is told, and another is added to cover up the first, explain how a web of deception gets heavier and more difficult to escape. Invite your child into truthful discourse. Give them a safe place to confess. Reward honest disclosure.
Walking your child into the freedom of the light allows him to escape a web of deceit. Impress on him how much better it feels in the light, how he doesn’t need to be concerned with someone finding out his “secret” there is no “fear of being caught” when you choose to live in the freedom of truthfulness.
♥ A home environment that intentionally admires truthful individuals nurtures integrity.
Young children imitate role models they admire. Reading biographies of honorable men and women who chose to tell the truth even when it was costly can inspire them to follow their example. Always be watching for opportunities to point out truthfulness in others and explain to your child why that quality is admirable and something for him/her to strive for.
♥ Inspiring your child to live as God’s soldier in the spiritual battle, nurtures integrity.
We know the source of lies. Jesus told us plainly (John 8:42–44). We shouldn’t hide this reality from our children, but in age-appropriate ways explain that we are in a battle with God’s enemy. Encourage your child to be a warrior in the battle—on God’s side. Let your child know the danger of listening to or speaking lies.
♥ Invite God into the process of nurturing your child’s integrity.
Finally, pray for your child’s integrity. Truthfulness should be a regular and specific point of intercession for your child’s character. Pray with them for truthfulness to be a defining quality of their lives. If you are in conversation and suspect your child is being untruthful, pray for discernment, but also for God to bring to light anything that is hidden.
A regular prayer throughout our children’s lives was that they would not be able to lie and get away with it; that things they tried to conceal would be brought to light. Now as adults, our children have told us they were often amazed at how faithfully God answered that prayer!
[box]O LORD, who may abide in Your tent?
Who may dwell on Your holy hill?
He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness,
And speaks truth in his heart. (Psalm 15:1–2)[/box]
How are you nurturing integrity in your child?