Liar Liar: 7 Questions that Will Help your Children Choose Right Over Wrong

Is your child telling lies?

By: Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

The Powerful Word of the month for June will be honesty. So to give you a jump on thinking of this very important character concept, let’s bring the point of lying out into the open. After all, lying is very much part of growing up and understanding right from wrong, reality from fantasy and truth from untruth.

When my best friend, Randi, and I were about 7 years old we did something really stupid. It was 4pm on a Wednesday in November and we decided to go for a little stroll. No, not down the street, not around the block, but all the way to the bottom of the hill, aside a highly trafficked road (cars whizzing by at 60 miles per hour) and then back up the opposite side of the hill—only to nonchalantly saunter back towards Randi’s house, feathers sticking out of our mouths having eaten the proverbial canary.

I bet you could imagine how I felt; scared, invigorated, guilty, and triumphant all at the same time. My gut was doing somersaults. While we had never been told NOT to do such a thing, we knew it was wrong and we had gotten away with it. But just as we entered Randi’s house, she walked over to her mother and to my horror, confessed the whole thing. How could she? This was not part of the plan! I can still hear it ringing in my head, “Mommy, you always told me to tell the truth. Robyn and I walked down the hill and across Pleasant Valley Way.”

It would likely not surprise you that my mother was furious when she learned of the news. All I can remember her asking was, “what were you thinking???”

What was I thinking? I am sure I was hoping that I would get away with it. I am certain I was thinking it would be something fun to do. And I am quite positive that I was eager to fully avoid the amount of trouble that currently awaited me. And there was no question that I was in a lot.

Perhaps you’re conjuring up memories of the day that you or your child made one of those very bad choices. As parents, we always want our children to choose the safest and best decisions. When we are with them, we can ensure that it usually happens that way. When we aren’t, we leave it in their hands. This is why so many parents can’t sleep at nights even though we’re all so tired, right?

We must arm our children with some Powerful Questions that can help them to choose right over wrong.

(1) What is the voice inside my gut telling me to do? Teaching children to listen to their gut is a very important skill. Our bodies often tell us what our minds our try to disguise. If your child chooses right or wrong, ask them, what made you make that choice? What was your gut telling you to do? What will you do next time?

(2) Could I look my parents/friend/teacher in the eye after I do it? We often know when our children are lying because they can not look us in the eye. Helping your children to understand that answering “no” to this question is a sign that they may be on the verge of making a poor choice.

(3) Could I look at myself in the mirror after I do it? This is really the crux of it, isn’t it? In fact, this is the way my own mother explained the meaning of integrity to me. If our children feel that they could not look at their own selves in the mirror after making this choice and be proud of what they did, they should take it as a warning that the impending choice could bring them a feeling of regret or shame.

(4) Would I do this behavior whether someone was watching me or not? In my opinion, the definition of good character is choosing to do the right thing whether all eyes are on you or all eyes are looking away. If your child can not answer “yes” to both scenarios, then she should probably not be doing it.

(5) Does the end justify the means? This can be a tough concept for children. After all, if they want an A on their book report and get an A on their book report that should be a good thing, right? Yes, accept when that A is achieved through dishonest means such as cheating. Sometimes, children have trouble remembering that parents actually care more about effort and character than about their child being the very best regardless of the cost. We must be patient and clear up this confusion so that children will choose “right” over “best” when faced with a question of integrity.

(6) Am I doing this because it is right or because it is popular? We have all heard of peer pressure. This phenomenon can happen on a variety of levels. Think of the child who argues that his friend, who clearly lost the race, crossed the finish line first. In this case, the child succumbs to the rules of friendship over the rules of fairness and integrity. We also see it when the child chooses to climb the fence because his friends are doing it rather than because he desires to do it himself. Either way, he is letting the popular thing get in the way of doing the right thing. We must teach our children not to allow popularity to cloud our judgment because in the end, the truth always comes out.

(7) Am I being who I am or am I being who others want me to be? This question coincides with number 6. We want our children to be themselves. When they alter their thoughts, actions, appearance, or choices because others want it that way, they are doing a major disservice to themselves and others. On the one hand, they are not allowing others to get to know the real individual behind the farce. On the other hand, they are building their friendships on a lie. As Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of Women Who Run with the Wolves, wrote, “If you live your life trying to please others, half the people will like you and half won’t. And if you live your life according to your own truth, half the people will like you and half won’t.” The underlying question it brings up—which half do you want as friends—those who like you for who you actually are or the person you are pretending to be?

As we know, mistakes will happen. If we use those mistakes to help our children make better choices next time, we will be strengthening their integrity. In the end, we are cultivating future leaders. And I imagine, as Powerful Parents, you would agree, that we want our future leaders to base their decisions on well-instilled values and principles rather than what is fast, popular, and self-serving.

This article was originally printed in the award-winning Bay State Parent Magazine.

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman is a child and adolescent development specialist whose programs and services are used by top educational facilities worldwide. She is also a success coach for parents and business leaders across the United States and Canada who are looking to achieve their goals, improve their lives or improve the lives of others. She presents to organizations, schools, and parents groups around the world on topics related to building character, leadership, communication, social networking and confidence. Interested in doing some coaching with Dr. Robyn or having Dr. Robyn present a seminar at your child’s school or at your business? Go to for more information.

5 Responses

  1. These are great techniques! Thanks.

  2. […] Word of the month—honesty–it’s humorous that we don’t always want our children to tell the truth all the time, do we? If they did, you might be startled by what you hear. See this 30 second clip […]

  3. […] it ever alright to lie? Can you think of a time when you might have to lie? What would the rest of the family think about […]

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