4 ways to teach your children honesty and accountability

4 ways to teach your children honesty and accountability



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SALT LAKE CITY — A few weeks ago, I received a text from the mom of a former preschool student of mine, saying that her daughter wanted to come by to see me. Having taught preschool for years, I have had many students and former students stop by from time to time to say "hi," or to bring by pictures they had colored; it is one of my favorite parts of the job.

Needless to say, I was very excited to see this former student of mine. She was one of the cutest, smartest, kindest girls I have ever had. She was always smiling and upbeat and lit up the room with her big brown eyes, curly brown hair and dimples.

When I opened the door, I didn't see her big, happy grin. Instead, her countenance was quiet, shy and even kind of sad. I told her I was so happy to see her and asked her how she was doing. With tears in her eyes, she, with the help of her mom, began to explain that she had taken 10 pennies home with her, after we had played a penny game in class.

She had felt bad for so long about it and, at the tender age of 7, wanted to come and apologize and make things right. I looked down and saw that she had brought a dime so that she could replace the money she had taken.


I am humbled by her thoughtfulness and in awe of her honestly. Even more, though, I applaud her parents. What wonderful people to be able to teach their children to recognize what is right and what is wrong, and to make their wrongs into rights.

After she had apologized and returned the money, she was back to her happy self again.

What a sweet, tender thing she had done. I am humbled by her thoughtfulness and in awe of her honestly. Even more, though, I applaud her parents. What wonderful people to be able to teach their children to recognize what is right and what is wrong, and to make their wrongs into rights.

In today's world it seems to be getting rarer and rarer that we see such examples as these.

How do we as parents teach our children the importance of honesty and accountability?

I have taken my cue from my own parents:

  1. Teach them to recognize what is right and wrong and how to correct their mistakes. Just like my student's mother, my own mom would have us be accountable for our mistakes. When I was young and would act up at church, my mom would have my siblings and I write “I'm sorry” notes to our teachers, and then walk us over to give them the notes, along with a little treat. Not only did we say the words “I'm sorry,” but we had to say what we were sorry for, ask for their forgiveness, and then tell them that we wouldn't do it again.
  2. Teach by example. I remember as a young teenager, we were visiting my grandparents' house. My dad and I had gone for a run, where we had passed the home of an old friend of his. He expressed that perhaps he wasn't as kind as he should have been to this friend. After we got back, I saw him write a note to the friend and take it down to his house. I'm not sure he knows that I witnessed that, but even so, it made a huge impression on me as a child.
  3. Be approachable and loving. As a parent, I know how disappointing it is to have your child make a mistake, especially when you know that they know better. As disappointed as you may be in your child, you will make it worse if reprimanding or punishing them is your initial response. Applaud them for having the courage to be honest, and do all you can to help them fix things. This will not only serve as a a great teaching tool, but it will ensure that your child has an open and honest relationship with you and, consequently, with others.
  4. Discuss their feelings. It is important to draw attention to the way they felt when they made the mistake and how it felt when they made it right. If they are able to recognize the way they felt, they will have a greater chance of doing the right thing next time.

I hope to be able to take my cue form my own parents and others like those of my student so that when my own children are faced with difficult things such as these, they will make the right choices too.


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About the Author: Arianne Brown -------------------------------

Arianne Brown is a graduate from Southern Utah University, mother to five young kids and an avid runner. *

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Arianne Brown

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