"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
Lies, dishonesty, untruths: daily we hear of sports figures, political leaders, school teachers and principals and court cases with questions of truth and honesty.
How do we teach children and youth the importance of honesty? Where do we begin? Do we start by welcoming children’s expressing their own thoughts and feelings?
When we catch a child in an untruth, do we listen to their story? Do we try to understand what fears led the child to believe that he could not tell the truth? Do we give firm, fair consequences and limits so the child feels secure in knowing what he can count on? Do we dialogue with the child in simple ways to help him understand the importance of honesty in trusting and relationships?
Do we model honesty in our words and behavior? Do we admit that we are not perfect and admit our mistakes? Our actions certainly do speak louder than our words. The “Do as I say but not as I do” philosophy does not usually work. (Some of these ideas are gleaned from writings of Richard Bromfield, a psychologist on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and author of “How to Unspoil Your Child Fast.”)
The most successful learning takes place when a child sees a positive example of what is being taught. That is the method Jesus used with his disciples. They probably learned more by watching Him, than by listening to Him. He taught them to serve one another in humility and love. He even assumed the role of a servant and washed their dirty feet.
A plaque poem, given to me long ago by one of my daughters, expresses this thought well.
I Caught Your Faith
I saw you stand bravely for years
But saw no trace of senseless fears.
I saw you stand calmly through stress
But caught no glimpse of bitterness.
I saw you stand prayerful in grief
But saw no trace of unbelief.
Though you spoke well of Jesus Christ.
I caught your faith watching your life. Anonymous
Prayer: God, you sent your Son, Jesus, to show us your ways. Help us to follow the example shown to us. Amen.
Lois Poppe (reprinted from 2011)