by Dr. Julia Getzelman

We are living in an era of “fake news.” Our leaders persist in getting their facts wrong and various online “news” sources continue to peddle harmful nonsense. While there should always be room for making an innocent mistake and correcting it, lying is another situation entirely. Honesty matters. It’s a key component to healthy relationships. As parents, we want our children to be honest, but how do we encourage truth-telling?

Researchers in Canada have investigated this question and found that there are two important ways to encourage children to be honest. The first is to make sure kids have a positive experience when they tell the truth about a misdeed. For example, if your child admitted to breaking the figurine, you might say, “Thank you for telling me what happened. Let’s see what we can do to repair it.” The second way is to read stories about honesty, and then spend some time reflecting on the characters and what happened.

Using Emotional Intelligence

Both of these methods of encouraging honesty in children rely on emotional intelligence. Last month we looked at the elements of emotional intelligence and ways to increase it. Situations involving honesty provide a terrific opportunity to exercise your own emotional intelligence. For instance, before responding to “I did it” or “I didn’t do it,” check in with your own emotional state. If you’re feeling frustrated or angry, take a moment to redirect that feeling so that it doesn’t land on your kid. Try to understand how he or she is feeling about the situation. Taking these steps can help you respond in a constructive and compassionate way, thereby encouraging the child to be honest in the future. Again, you can also reinforce lessons in honesty anytime by reading stories about it. Reading stories increases empathy, which in turn improves emotional intelligence. 

Model Desired Behavior

One of the best ways to teach is by example. When we adults make a mistake and own up to it, our kids learn how to take responsibility for their actions. The same goes for apologies: learning how to make things right after you’ve messed up is important, and it takes practice.

Setting Limits for Children

When we insist on honesty from our children, we are setting a limit. We are teaching our children that they can’t go through life lying, the same way they can’t go through life hitting other people whenever they’re feeling angry. Limits and boundaries are important for children because they help them feel secure. Being clear on your family’s priorities and values makes it easier to set limits and stick to them—embody them even—during challenging moments involving big and small things. For example, if you know that more than 20 minutes in front of a screen transforms your happy 5 year old into a tantruming devil-child, you will probably find it easier to insist on an agreed upon screen time limit, despite pushback and big feelings when the 20 minutes is up.

Setting Limits for Ourselves

It’s not only children who need limits—adults need them, too! Whether it’s getting sucked into endless scrolls on social media, staying up too late, or having a few extra drinks, it’s really easy to convince ourselves that limits shouldn’t apply to us—life is hard enough without having to toe the line all the time. But if we’re honest, our overall quality of life begins to diminish with too much of any of these indulgences. So don’t be afraid to show your kids how you look after your own well being by setting limits for yourself and observing them. How? Maybe put your phone in a drawer whenever you can (“Out of sight, out of mind!”). Or perhaps consider an intermittent fasting program for yourself to jump start a new approach to limits.

The New England Journal of Medicine recently published an article that recognizes that intermittent fasting can result in increased stress resistance, increased longevity, and fewer incidences of diseases including cancer and obesity.  “Alternating between times of fasting and eating supports cellular health, probably by triggering an age-old adaptation to periods of food scarcity called metabolic switching. Such a switch occurs when cells use up their stores of rapidly accessible, sugar-based fuel, and begin converting fat into energy in a slower metabolic process.” You may have seen what I posted on Facebook about my experience on the Prolon fasting mimicking diet (FMD), a research based 5 day program designed to biohack your body’s ability to reverse inflammation and aging, among other things. I highly recommend it—besides the physical benefits, it gave me a greater appreciation for what my body actually needs, what it is capable of every day, and how so much of eating is on auto-pilot. Contact us at GetzWell for more information, including details on how to sign-up for the 5-day Fasting Mimicking program.