Teaching Values to Elementary Age Children
The Honesty Under Pressure Award
This is a motivational way to get children to evaluate their personal honesty every week. On Sundays (or whatever day you most often get your whole family together for a meal) ask, "Who had a situation this past week where it was a challenge to be honest?" Have an "award" on hand to give to the person who remembers the best incident of being honest. A piece of construction paper or colored card with a neatly printed H.U.P. (Honesty Under Pressure) will do nicely as the award. Let the child (or adult) who wins put it on his bedroom door during the week until it is awarded again the next week.
After a couple of weeks of "getting used to," you will find that children are thinking hard about their behavior of the past week in hopes of winning the award. And it is this kind of thinking and recognition that strongly reinforces honesty.
The Consequence Game
This game can help children understand that the long-term consequences of honesty are always better than the long-term consequences of dishonesty.
Prepare some simple index card pairs (card 1 and 2 are a pair). On one side of each of the cards in the pair describe two alternative courses of action -- one honest and one dishonest -- along with the short-term consequences of each action. Fill out the other side of the cards so that when the two cards are flipped over, the long-term consequences are revealed. Play it as a game, letting children decide, by looking at the front sides only, which option they would take.
Card 1: front side
You are the store buying something and the clerk gives you $10.00 too much change. You keep it. After all, it was his mistake and not yours. You go into the toy store next door and buy some new handle grips for your bike.
Card 1: reverse side
You know the money wasn't yours. You started to worry that the clerk will have to pay the $10.00 out of his own wages. Whenever you ride your bike, the new handle grips remind you that you were dishonest.
Card 2: front side
When the clerk gives you the $10.00 extra change, you tell him he has given you too much and give the $10.00 back to him. He says thanks, but as you walk out, you start thinking about the new handle grips you could have bought with the $10.00.
Card 2: reverse side
You feel good and strong inside because you were honest. Whenever you ride your bike, you remember that you need handle grips, but you also remember that you were honest.
Card 3: front side
You are sitting in class taking a really hard test that you forgot to study for. The girl across the aisle seems to know all the answers, and her paper is so easy to see. You copy a few answers and end up getting an A- on the test.
Card 3: reverse side
Your conscience bothers you. You know that you didn't deserve the A. You wonder if anyone saw you cheating. It's a little hard for you to get to sleep that night. On the next test you're unprepared again.
Card 4: front side
You're a little mad at yourself for not studying harder and you're really worried about your grade. Still, you keep your eyes on your paper and do your best. Unfortunately your best that day is only a C on the test.
Card 4: reverse side
You resolve to study harder. Next test you do better. You like yourself because you know you are honest. Other people like you because they know you can be trusted.
Develop other cards to meet your own situation. Let the short-term consequences of a dishonest act be good, the long-term consequence bad. Develop cards on honesty with parents, with siblings, with friends, with institutions, and so on.
After playing the game ask the question, "What could a person do if he made the dishonest choice and felt bad about it afterward?" (He could return the money, apologize, etc.)
The Honesty Pact
Decide in advance, within your family, to be strictly honest with each other. Toward the end of this "month" on honesty, get together as a family around the dinner table or on an outing. Thank the children for their help in thinking about honesty during the month. Review what everyone has learned. Ask if anyone knows what a "pact" is. Suggest that the family have a pact of strict honesty so that every family member can explicitly trust every other family member. Write up a short pact, starting with the words, "We promise each other . . ." Let everyone (parents and children) sign the pact.
Story, "Isabel's Little Lie"
Tell the following story to help your children understand how one lie can lead to another and produce serious consequences:
One day Isabel told a little lie. She wasn't supposed to feed her dinner to her dog, Barker, but she did, and when her mother came in and saw her plate all clean, Isabel said that she had eaten it all. (That was a little lie, wasn't it?) The dinner was chicken, and Barker got a bone in his throat. Pretty soon he started to cough and snort and act very uncomfortable.
"Do you know what's wrong with Barker?" asked Mother. "No," said Isabel. (That was another lie, wasn't it?) But Isabel had to do it so that Mother wouldn't know she told the first lie.) Mother looked in Barker's mouth but couldn't see anything. "Did Barker eat something, Isabel?"
"I don't know, Mommy." (That was another lie, wasn't it? But she didn't want her mother to know about the first two lies.)
Barker got worse, and Mother took him to the animal hospital. Isabel went too. "What happened to the dog?" asked the doctor. "We don't know," said Isabel. (That was another lie, wasn't it? But if Isabel had told, then Mother and the dog doctor would know she had lied before.) The dog doctor said, "If it's just a bone, we could get it out with an instrument, but it might be glass, so we may have to operate."
Isabel decided it was time to tell the truth. She said, "It's a bone, and I did know Barker ate it, and I didn't eat all my dinner, and I did give it to Barker, and I won't tell lies anymore, because if you tell one, you might have to tell more and more." Isabel started to cry, but her mother loved her and she decided she really would tell the truth from then on.
Listen to the parent discussion
Listen to the adventure
These files can be burned to CD or transferred to your mobile device.
Who Are You? (Download)
Little Lies (Download)
Alligator Lunch (Download)
The Only Way Out (Download)
Tell the Truth (Download)
One Word (Download)