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According to Scripture, children are the arrows in our quiver (Psalm 127:3-5), and it’s our job to sharpen them before we send them out into the world (Proverbs 22:6). That’s why rule number five in The Parenting Short List is an absolute must!

5.  Tell your kids the truth. 

Telling the truth is fun when the truth is something your kids want to hear.  It’s anything but fun when the truth has the potential to hurt, disappoint, or discourage them, which is why American Idol never has trouble finding footage of bad singers for their audition episodes.

Still, the truth must be told. The trick is learning how and when to deliver it so your child remembers the truth over the interchange.  Here are a few tips:

  • Recognize the Bible as absolute Truth.  Truth is not relative.  Kids need to know this.  Hold the Bible up as the only source of absolute Truth and the ultimate authority in your home, emphasizing the Gospel at every turn.  You’ll find, in doing so, that you are able to take the me vs. you element out of family conflict and meet on common ground at the foot of the cross.
  • Make sure it’s the truth.  Then speak it in love.  Truth must be spoken.  Opinions, not so much, unless you identify them as such and your child is ready to listen.   Before you give advice or offer constructive criticism, always check it against Scripture.  If and only if what you want to say matches up with God’s Word, deliver your message with compassion, humility, and a gentle spirit.  Keep your emotions in check and let anger abate before you speak so you don’t say too much, put words in God’s mouth, or wound your child.
  • Make sure they hear you correctly.  Because we tend to remember how we felt during a conversation, not what was actually said, it’s always a good idea to have your children repeat your words back to you to make sure they understood both what you DID say and what you DIDN’T say.
  • Practice what you preach.  Actions speak louder than words.  They may not always remember what you said, but they will remember what you always did.
  • Offer sincere compliments only. Don’t flatter. This is a tough one, but it’s so important to be honest with your child in all things.  Don’t tell them something is wonderful when it isn’t.  If it isn’t, say so as gently as possible (IF necessary) and then point out something that truly IS wonderful.  Believe me.  When they are older, they will come to you for an honest opinion, and the compliments that you do give will mean so much more to them than the cheap flattery they can find just about anywhere else.
  • Balance constructive criticism with encouragement. Whenever possible, bookend necessary constructive criticism with sincere compliments.  Difficult conversations, even necessary ones, deplete relational bank accounts.  Make two deposits for every withdrawal.
  • Cut big truth into age-appropriate, bite-size chunks, giving them time to chew, swallow, and digest. Topics like sex, divorce, abortion, spiritual warfare, etc. are best approached this way.  Follow your child’s lead.  Answer their questions and only their questions carefully, confidently, and as simply as possible, using age-appropriate euphemisms when appropriate.  When they are older and capable of handling the rest of the truth, fill in the gaps so they don’t go out into the world unprepared.

To withhold or manipulate the truth for any reason, even to spare feelings, is not only unfair to our children, but it can also leave them dull and potentially ineffective for Kingdom work, a crushing thought to a true follower of Christ.

Next time, we’ll discuss the dangers of taking too much credit or too much blame for the choices your children make.