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Training to Tell the Truth: Part 5

A strong ingredient in training student to tell the truth is to reinforce truth telling which is the focus of this current post.

Telling the truth can be strengthened by catching them telling the truth, and then reinforce their truthful response with praise and attention. Give praise even for small things, even if you have to ask questions that you know will bring an almost automatic honest answer, such as, “Johnny, are you standing in line?” You know he is, and he knows he is. When he says, “Yes,” praise him and reinforce him with a hand pat to be truthful. Use more words like “Thanks, Johnny, for your truthfulness, honesty, and sincerity. I like it when Johnny is honest.” The more experience students have with honesty, the higher the opportunity for future honest responses. Furthermore, it will build self-confidence and reinforce positive behavior.

A side benefit of being honest is trustworthiness. To strengthen this trait, the teacher lets the child know “I can count on you” or “You are the kind of student who will follow through.” Critical to this training is finishing homework and assignments, whether they find them agreeable or not. Students often get out of completing a task because parents and teachers are unwilling to let the student carry out supposedly meaningless duties. When it is started, rather than giving up, encourage the student to continue even if something is currently dull; completing a task builds honesty and reliability; both support trustworthiness.

Teachers are role models. The teacher needs to be true to their word, even if the students see the teacher telling a half-truth or making convenient decisions. For example, a teacher is working on entering grades on her computer. Ten minutes remain in the class period, and a student asks if they could get out some puzzles. The teacher, not wanting to supervise and monitor the students, tells them that there is not enough time to get the puzzles out and put them away. From the student’s perspective, “there is sufficient time; the teacher just does not want us to do it.” The teacher has just taken away a piece of the pie of her truthfulness; it will take much effort to put the piece of truthfulness back.

Teachers need to keep their commitments. A person’s word should be their “bond.” When they give it, they do not break it. They can be trusted to keep their promises, regardless of the type of promise. It may be something small, like granting a two-minute free time at the end of the period, or something big like giving extra credit for an assignment or even being committed to following through on a scheduled test in a specific class period. Research shows that keeping promises carries much emotional value and shows trust; where there is trust, honesty flourishes.

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