Teaching kids the consequences of cheating and lying -- making it real.
I think the best way to help kids make the choice not to cheat and lie is to teach them firsthand what the real consequences of being a liar and a cheater are -- not being trustworthy. Cheating and lying are the vehicles of an untrustworthy person and it is important that as parents we drive home -- in a very personal way -- what is means when someone cannot trust you.
Here is what I did.
At some point in their lives, all kids are going to give lying a try. It is human nature. So when I caught my son Jack in a lie for the first time, I taught him a Mom's Lesson:
Mom's Lesson: A L.I.E. has consequences!
Step 1. Look: We had a discussion about how lying and cheating breaks the trust people have with you. The consequence might be unintended, but it is real.
Step 2. Internalize: We talked about how getting someone to trust you again after you have lied or cheated is very hard to do. That real consequence is hard to overcome and make right.
Step 3. Experience: I told him that over the course of the next few days, I was going to lie to him. He would not know when I was going to do it, or how big the lie would be, but I was going to lie. He was going to experience firsthand the consequences of being lied to -- first hand -- from the other side of the coin! It only took a few days of simple lies for him to get my point across.
I started out slow, telling him we would have his favorite dessert for dinner. At the end of dinner he asked, "Where's dessert?" I simply looked at him and said, "I lied." I kept doing little things, but they added up pretty quickly and he got the point.
I wanted him to feel what it felt like to be betrayed. I wanted it experience what it was like to lose trust in someone.
When we give our kids a safe place to fail -- a safe place to experience consequences -- we are giving them a huge gift. Being able to learn firsthand some of life's hard lessons gives our kids a head start on living a value-based life.