The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.

Parent Question: What happens when your child has the courage to tell the truth, and we don’t agree with what they have done? It’s a good thing they trusted us, and we don’t want to squash their comfort in telling the truth. How do we handle this…?

Yes, I agree it’s a good thing they trusted you, and I would say this to them. But there still needs to be a discussion, or maybe even accountability for what it is you don’t agree with.

Go to the principles in your home. Is the thing they’ve done, and admitted to, a violation of one of those principles?

When I was in 8th grade, my father and mother found out I was hanging out with a girl who was smoking. When they confronted me about it – “Pam, we’ve heard Sandy is smoking; is this true?” – I wanted to protect my friend. So I quickly replied, “Yes, and I’ve tried it, too.”

Talk about diverting the attention from my friend to me – wow – my father was very upset by this admission. Yes, I’d told the truth, but believe me there was no leniency on the accountability or punishment. My parents were very strict, and they may have gone over the top in their concern and follow-through, but I never had any question as to where they stood on issues that concerned character, including that of taking care of oneself and not smoking.

You may have heard the story of the honest ax-murderer; he admitted his guilt, telling the truth, but there was still a sentence! While this may seem a bit extreme, it does illustrate that we are trying to teach our kids all aspects and phases of character, and this includes upholding the standards of the family. If your child does something you don’t agree with, make it clear that it is unacceptable, even though at the same time you are proud of their honesty in telling you what they did.

In the situation with your child, it might be a good time to ask them what they think the accountability for their action or decision should be. They might argue that there should be none because they told you the truth, but don’t buy into that. If you don’t agree with their suggestion of accountability, then set one yourself. Also remember that it’s important to look at the attitude they have about looking at the decision they made in this situation; a contrite, humble attitude can go a long way.

If you put truth at the center of the family, the truths are not always easy to hear or to tell. But trusting the truth means that all members of the family can admit their mistakes, learn from them, and move on.

Thanks for this great question!