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How to Raise Honest Children is part of a longer study titled, Raising Children to Stay in the Faith

How to Raise Honest Children

The following is an edited version of an open letter written to Mike and Debi Pearl in response to an article in their No Greater Joy magazine. This letter was not written by a college student trying to get a degree in social work, rather it was written by a mother who has successfully raised seven honest children.

Dear Mike & Debi,

My husband and I have seven children. In the early years of our marriage, we walked alone in our convictions about how to raise Godly children. When we read your book To Train up a Child, we felt we that had been blessed. It was like a breath of fresh air and I was amazed at how many things I had previously learned from my husband, which Mike had also written in his book.

When we first started to raise our children, I had no idea of the importance of training in their lives. Fortunately, it was very different for my husband, who had a very clear understanding of healthy child training. Watching him, I quickly learned the importance of it, and I am forever grateful to God for the fruit that it has produced.

Recently, you published an article in No Greater Joy on how to deal with dishonesty in children called "Dealing with Slick Liars". Although I have never corresponded before, when Debi said, “I am not suggesting that this is the way to stop lying in all children” I felt compelled to write and to tell you the way we have trained honest children.

Honesty has always been a top priority in our child rearing goals. Now that we have successfully raised five children into honest adulthood, we can say, without reserve, that it truly works! We have been able to raise our children all the way through teen-hood knowing that we can trust them completely.

When our children were young, my husband sat them down and explained to them this rule: If they did something wrong and voluntarily confessed it to us, we would not punish them as long as they told the truth. They could always trust us to keep this promise to them of complete amnesty if they would only be honest. (An important side note, you must not ask a child to confess a trespass if you are determined to correct him for it.)

Thus from a very young age they developed a habit of coming to us right away as soon as they had done anything wrong. This is just what we had hoped for because we knew that if they could be accountable to us for their actions while they were young it would be a pattern engrained into them when they grew older. As time went on our children learned it so well that as soon as one of them did anything disobedient all the other siblings would coach them to make a confession right away. I can remember times when they could not wait for my husband to get home and as he drove up they would run for the car, not even waiting for him to come inside. Even though skeptics have found it hard to believe, our children never abused the privilege of this rule. Knowing that they would give a truthful answer has kept the children from temptation and wrongdoing. Like the grace of Jesus Christ this discouraged them from sin?

Oftentimes there were things we needed to explain after they confessed, for example, when one daughter hit a baseball through a window, my husband told her that she needed to find another place to play baseball. There was no anger and no punishment followed.

I especially remember one incidence when my son, James, was 12 years old. My husband often worked with James on our family car. One day, my husband gave him instructions to fix something under the car. When my husband was gone, James forgot to remove the axle-stand from underneath the car before he lowered it. When he looked at the damage he thought he had totally ruined the car and came inside in anguish. Instead of helping, he had ruined the car. I could see his inner turmoil, but even before I spoke his sister was there telling him not to worry, just tell Dad the truth and everything will be okay. It seemed like an eternity as James built up the courage to tell his dad. James waited for about 20 minutes in anguish, and then confessed what he had done in tears. True to his word, his father met him with a smile. Why should he be angry? He had an honest son who was trying to help fix the car. The incident was an accident and not rebellious behavior. They went out and fixed the car together.

To be honest, years earlier, this same child of ours did start down the broad path of lying. Yes, the little cherub was smooth and hard to catch. My husband went through these steps to affect the cure.

  1. My husband sat him down and showed him some Bible verses on how God hated lying.
  2. He explained that sin was addictive and once he started the pattern, he could not stop lying on his own.
  3. When we were not sure if he was lying, we did not punish him but said, “We think you are lying, when we know for sure, you will receive a spanking hard enough to make up for these times you think you are getting away with it.”
  4. His son was not to think however, he was getting away with his lies.
    1. We removed all privileges that required trust and explained why.
    2. In any dispute between him and his siblings, we were not interested in his version of the events while he was still a liar.
  5. We never asked him a question that would give him an opportunity to lie. Instead, we only asked him questions for which we already knew the answers. This happened twice, my husband gave him spankings each time. See Proverbs 23:13. These were the only hard spankings he has ever needed in his life.

Though this was a hard two weeks in our life, the cure was complete and we have an honest son whom we could always trust since.

Although my husband set up these rules to make our children honest, I have seen other benefits come out of it as well. To my delight, it solves problem of tattle telling. Instead of the kids running to us to tell us of their sibling’s shortcomings, they told their siblings to tell on themselves instead! In this way, my burden was greatly eased.

Another benefit is being able to leave money and other valuables around the house. If some object of value has ever been missing, it was simply misplaced.

The biggest benefit of all, of course, is the spiritual lesson they were learning. Often, the way children deal with their parents will be the way they learn to deal with God. Jesus said, "If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." This is the pattern which God set up for us and is is the only true way of complete healing for sin. If they can learn when they are young to confess as a natural course in life, how much easier will it be for them when they face God in the future?

One of my favorite Bible verses in dealing with my own sin and guilt says "He that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" I know I can come to Him, not because of me, but because of Him. If we can pattern for our children, not only how they should handle sin, but how we handle their sin, we will have a major influence on their walk with God.

A sister in Christ, Hannah


This letter is part of a longer study titled, Raising Children to Stay in the Faith