Character and virtues development is like a melting pot. At different stages, parents and the environment add ingredients, stir a bit, and increase or decrease the heat. The melting pot, parents, environment, and outcome are uniquely different for each child.
A starting point is needed to begin understanding what is possible and how to get there, and get our children there. At a minimum, our children need to be honest and able to be a friend and have friends. Dishonesty prevents the formation of close friendships.
Several years ago, in a national poll, nearly three of four American adults said that they believe that people in general lead less honest and moral lives than they used to. How about the ad that questions the fairness of most businesses by showing a stylish con-man treating two young girls (customers) differently? The first youngster (or client) gets a small cardboard pony and seems quite gracious with the meagre gift. The second young girl is startled when she is given a real pony since she is a new customer. What shock and disappointment on the face of the first girl!. No wonder a high school teacher is quoted as saying, “Kids are more cynical than ever about the lack of honesty that they see in the adult world.”
Children should be shown and taught that honesty means:
- always telling the truth: someone who lies or deceives can’t be trusted;
- following the rules: cheating isn‘t fair or right;
- not stealing: it’s wrong to take what does not belong to us;
- being sincere and genuine: you lose respect if you are a fraud;
- being sincere and pure: it’s unethical to use trickery and deception and to act as if something false is true,
- being authentic or real: it’s wrong to pretending or make things up in order to gain an advantage or avoid responsibility, discipline, consequences; and
- speaking your mind; being frank and straightforward clarifies things and makes them quickly more understandable, when done properly.
Sometimes it appears easier to just use adjectives or labels. If the label is positive, such as “genuine”, “authentic”, it may not do any harm. However, it is still better to identify the specific behaviour that you are encouraging or would like changed. Unfortunately labels stick with the child for a long time even though the child is much more than that one negative term.
Often we stress what “not to do”. That’s important since children need to understand what’s bad, wrong, or evil and must be avoided. To avoid being too negative, do it less. Do more of referring to the positive or desirable “what to do’s”.