Don't assume your kid understands why cheating is immoral. Young kids especially won't fully grasp why they shouldn't take something that doesn't belong to them or not tell the truth. First, you must be clear about your own moral beliefs. Do you believe that dishonesty is inherently wrong because it hurts you most of all by diminishing your character and spirit? Do you feel that no matter what the short-term loss might be, being honest and trustworthy is its own reward even when no one is looking? Think through your values. Here are a few ways you might convey them to your child:
• Tell your kid a recent moral choice you've made, like declaring nondocumented income on your tax return or giving back the wrong change even though it's in your favor.Your kids need to know that everyone is tempted to cheat, but honesty and hard work are always the better policy. One of the simplest ways is by modeling how you fight those urges to your kids. Intentionally look for day-to-day opportunities to do so, especially if you are in the middle of any kind of competition (without their knowing you are doing so, of course!).
• Provide your child with good heroes and heroines from history and current events such as George Washington and the cherry tree ("I cannot tell a lie"), Joan of Arc, Honest Abe Lincoln, Rosa Parks, and the women who were the whistleblowers at Enron and the FBI.
• Read stories from the Bible and Aesop's Fables that address honesty and strong moral character.
• Look for examples in your community of people who stood up for an honest cause even when it wasn't popular or convenient.
Spend time listening to your kid as well. You will want to hear your kid's views and where he stands on the issue. Posing questions that include "what," "how," and "why" often help in gauging values, so use them: "Why do you think kids cheat?" "How do you feel about it?" "What do you learn from cheating?"
Don't make the mistake of thinking that a one-time talk on such a serious subject will convince your kid that honesty really is the best policy. State your views over and over, and look for teachable day-to-day moments to review why cheating is wrong. And most important, repeatedly spell out your expectations for honesty: "Everyone in our family is always expected to be honest with one another."
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