We live in an age where integrity often takes a back seat to power and material success.
Over the last 4 years I’ve observed this play out more publicly in both U.S. & UK politics, where deceit, dishonesty, and relentless bullying from all sides shows children the flip side of integrity.
Disrespect, disregard and dishonesty often seep invisibly into the bodies and minds of children.
While kids are influenced by many out-of-home factors in today’s world, research shows that families are still the primary teachers of integrity so how do you teach it ?
6 Ways to Teach Your Child Integrity
1. Talk & Teach Family Values.
Grab a piece of paper, a pen, a cup of coffee & ‘pause to ponder’ then write down:
What are your family values?
Do you talk about them?
Does your child know them?
Are you modelling them as your child’s primary role model?
Do you use opportunities in the media, news & everyday life to ‘talk & teach’ your children your values?
Family values impact & influence healthy child and adolescent development in profound ways.
Children are watching, listening & learning from you all the time.
What are they picking up ?
Is that OK?
2. Develop a moral vocabulary.
Don’t be afraid to use words like honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, andcourage as these are core values since time began – they’re not old fashioned, out of date or embarrassing traits.
These core values speak of who you are as a person & are not necessarily linked to your religion. They are philosophical & universal truths & are important.
Kids today are bombarded by social media – it’s often cruel, heartless & unforgiving – are those the values you want your kids to learn from?
We need to be the antidote to unkindness, bullying, lies & distrust.
We have to teach kids to ‘do the right thing’ when no one is watching.
- Encourage, praise & reward respectful behaviour.
When children feel good about doing what’s right, they learn to feel good about themselves.
They learn to like who they see in the mirror.
Parents who let children know that courage, honesty, and respect for others is more highly valued than power & wealth or intelligence help children understand compassion, empathy & what’s really important in the human experience.
So encourage telling the truth even when it’s easier to lie to avoid getting in trouble, praise doing the right thing, nurture honesty & showing respect to the vulnerable, disabled, elderly & people from different cultures & races.
4. Explore consequences.
Learning integrity takes practice.
Like all learning, failure produces consequences. When children explore, understand, and accept the consequences of their mistakes & failures encourage them to learn from them. I call it ‘failing forward.’
Use it as a ‘teachable moment’
Children need to learn to be responsible for their words & actions so learning to act with integrity is a natural habit they have developed in all the small ways over time.
When integrity is taught at home from a young age, it becomes part of your child’s character.
Having integrity doesn’t mean children will always be honest, responsible, or respectful, of course not, but what it does mean is that they will understand the consequences of their actions on themselves and others and, with that understanding, will make informed choices about how they live out their own values in the world which is really important.
5. Respond Consistently
The secret to success is to always respond consistently when reinforcing your family values.
Talk & listen to your children. Show respect for your child’s thinking & point of view, read books & chat about the actions of the characters in the story & keep the bigger picture of where you’re trying to get to – which is to raise a well rounded adult with integrity.
- Teach self-efficacy
Children who stand up for principles that they believe in have high degrees of self-efficacy, which is the belief in their own ability to accomplish goals and influence their own future.
You can develop self-efficacy in your children when you teach them to be guided by their own internal compasses so living with integrity becomes a way of life.
Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you.
— H. Jackson Brown, Jr.