Empowering Our Kids Against Addiction: Part 1 – Living Honestly
We begin this series of how parents can empower our kids against the destructive pathways of addiction by looking at the freeing power of living with a pattern of honesty and integrity. When I use the term, “honesty,” I mean the sincere effort to communicate about life as it really is, rather than distorting the truth, covering up some element of the truth, or otherwise attempting to deceive someone about how things really are. When I use the term, “integrity,” I mean the quality that marks someone’s life who can be trusted to live and communicate in a way that is consistent across all life contexts – regardless of whether or not that individual is being observed by anyone else.
It is the nature of addictions to thrive in the dark. The more a person tends to hide, distort, lie, and manipulate, the more susceptible that person is to the growth of addiction in their life. And the more a person lives in the tightening grip of addiction, the more likely he or she is to hide, distort, lie, and manipulate. The voice of addiction says life is too hard or too dangerous to be faced as it is. A huge lie. The voice of addiction also says doing whatever it takes to feed its insatiable hunger is more important than being truthful. Another crippling lie. One of the most well-known hallmarks in the life of an addiction is dishonesty. There becomes a growing tendency to lie to one’s self and to lie to others.
And because addiction cannot tolerate consistent exposure to the light of truth, training our kids and teens to live with honesty and integrity as a way of life is one of the most powerful ways we can strengthen them against addiction’s attacks and seductions. Addiction simply cannot take root and grow in the life of someone who steadfastly walks in the light of truthfulness. Teaching our kids both to interpret life as it really is and to present life as it really is equips them with their most fundamental defense against addiction. Here are several key ways we can train our teens and younger children to embrace honesty as a way of life:
Model honesty and integrity through our own lives. You knew I was gonna go there, didn’t you? Of course! If we want our kids to grown through their teen years into adulthood living in the light of honesty and integrity, our most important task is to show them what it looks like in our own lives.
Place a higher value on our kids being honest with us than trying to impress us. Of course, we should celebrate achievement and success in the lives of our teens. But let’s be sure we give them ongoing recognition and praise for being honest about their struggles, mistakes, and failures. The teen who learns not to fear having their shortcomings seen, but regularly determines to own them and work to overcome them and openly clean up their own messes is radiating a light that keeps away the darkness of addiction.
Frequently recognize, discuss, and celebrate stories of honesty. Catch your daughter or son in act of being honest, when you know it would be very tempting to take a dishonest path. Explain why it is such a big deal to you, how that impacts your view of your teen or child, and invite her/him to explain why and how she/he chose the path of honesty. Have similar discussions in light of stories from the news, school, work, movies, family members or friends, TV shows, etc.
Read and discuss Bible stories, verses, and other books and writings that celebrate the power of honesty and integrity. The Bible has much to say on why honesty is so important and powerful. And there are countless other books, stories, poems, etc that also underscore the great virtue of truthfulness and integrity. Use these tools to start conversations, answer questions, challenge hard places, and illuminate the darkness.
What other methods and strategies have you found helpful in training your kids in the ways of honesty?
And be sure to check back soon for the next weapon in the arsenal against the enemy of addiction: Working for long-term rewards!