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Let’s Be Honest

Updated: Aug 29, 2023


Dr. Joanne Foster –

An open, honest, and careful response to your child’s questions, made with sensitivity to their level of understanding, can be helpful—even essential—to their healthy self-concept and continued joy in the learning process.” 1

Children need someone they trust and with whom they can talk about ups and downs, and daily events. Regardless of age, bottling things up is unhealthy. Kids have to be able to express their thoughts, worries, and ideas—and possibly even vent. And parents have to listen attentively and respectfully in order to respond truthfully and to know what resources to acquire. Parents can also help children understand the importance of honesty and other qualities (such as determination, kindness, fairness, patience, and integrity) by demonstrating them.


Children learn from what they see, hear, and experience.” 2

Honesty is integral to meaningful communication, relationships, and learning experiences. It provides a foundation for understanding, purpose, trust, and reliability. With that in mind, here are five practical suggestions for parents. (The quotes, each with a specific perspective on dealing honestly with children, are from three different books, as noted.)

1. “Be honest, but provide only as much detail as your child is able to handle. Children’s abilities to process emotionally loaded information differ with age, development, and personal experience.” 3 Parents sometimes wonder how much truth to reveal to their child or how to express something that may be difficult for little ones to comprehend. There are inevitably current events that are troublesome or scary. Honesty is a virtue (oft-quoted as “the best policy”), and yet there are times when you may have to watch your words or weigh the extent of your messaging so as not to confuse, frighten, or worry your young child.

Simple, clear, and honest explanations are preferable to long, circumventive ones. It can be soothing to explain that troubling circumstances are handled by expert helpers. You can also encourage your child to express ideas and feelings through drawing, music, role-playing, and other forms of expression. These can be good emotional outlets and springboards for discussion.

2. “Emotions affect how people deal with things. Take note of your feelings. For example, if you’re frazzled, take a break and try to relax with breathing exercises, stretching, music, or time out.” 4 Remember that your level of composure translates to your child. It’s difficult to convey honest and measured responses to children when you’re feeling distraught or exhausted. It’s important to take the time you need to look after yourself and to remain calm. Try to make your own self-care a priority.

3. “Reaffirm children’s growth, enjoyment, and effort; make positive, honest comments on how they manage demands and tackle challenges; and celebrate their pursuit of passions, learning opportunities, and creative outlets.” 5 Offer timely, appropriate, constructive, and honest feedback when your child tackles a task, overcomes a problem, or engages in an activity. This will serve to give them helpful strategies, bolster their confidence, and motivate them to progress to the next level of learning and enjoyment. Show you have faith in their abilities. If you feel positive let your child know this. Positivity can have a beneficial impact on their knowledge acquisition, creativity, resilience, play, courage, and other lived experiences.

4. “The attributes that make families work—mutual respect; generous enthusiasm for others’ strengths; patient tolerance for others’ weaknesses, sensitivity; honesty; and so on—serve children well in their social interactions in playgrounds, schools, extracurricular activities, and later in colleges and workplaces.” 6 The home environment offers learning opportunities galore as a child observes, listens, and engages with their world. Every day presents new ways for parents and extended family members to share and model personal strengths and character traits that will empower children now, and into the future. Honesty is just one of these! (Compassion, forgiveness, curiosity, gratitude—what is valued and encouraged in your home?)

5. “Watch your tone, written communication, words, facial expressions, gestures, and body language, all of which convey messages and reveal attitudes and undertones.” 7 Keep your interactions honest by remembering that your words and connotations can influence children’s understandings, feelings, and behaviors. Subtleties may not always be so subtle. Young children can pick up on nuances and recognize undercurrents, facades, or incongruencies—even though those actual words may not be part of their vocabulary.


Each learning environment, set of circumstances, social milieu, transition, educational decision, span of growing up years, and opportunity for authentic self-discovery has its very own stamp of distinction—to be reflected upon, and addressed accordingly.” 8

Provide children with examples, guidance, and instruction in order to learn how to be honest with others, and with themselves. It’s okay if they experience conflicts or uncertainty because then they’ll learn how to problem-solve and deal with life’s eventualities—that is, how to settle things constructively, responsibly, truthfully, and creatively. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built.” You can help your child become stronger and wiser by making honesty a top priority as they learn to define what really matters and develop the skills, qualities, and moral fiber they’ll need as they mature over the course of time.

About the Author Dr. Joanne Foster is a gifted education specialist, and the award-winning author of several books, including the 3 rd edition of Being Smart — Being Smart about Gifted Learning: Empowering Parents and Kids Through Challenge and Change (co-authored with Dona Matthews, published by Gifted Unlimited LLC., and available for pre-order now at For additional resources on creativity, learning, productivity, children’s well-being, and more—and for information about the books noted below—go to

1 - Being Smart about Gifted Learning. p. 118 2 - ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids. p. 136 3 - Beyond Intelligence. p. 188 4 - ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids. p. 114 5 - Being Smart about Gifted Learning. p. 220-221 6 - Beyond Intelligence. p. 230 7 - ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids. p. 137 8 - ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids. p. 146

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