Integrity is about standing up for what we believe is right. With all the virtues inside of each person already we know in our conscience what is right and wrong. In fact, researchers say that by the age of 5 or 6, even children know what feels like the right thing to do. As parents, our responsibility is to articulate to our children what we value the most. As they grow and mature, they will discern their own set of values, but don’t you as the parent want to influence that and lessen the amount of influence that comes from others and media?
What does integrity mean to you? How does it look in your family? For many families, integrity begins with telling the truth and not lying to one another even when we know it may mean a consequence. It may also include keeping our promises, living up to our values, speaking up when we see others being hurt and staying true to ourselves even when there are challenges.
For many parents, though integrity begins with telling the truth to each other. Children at some point will test that boundary, and most parents will feel a level of shock, disappointment, and disbelief that their child has tried this tactic. Before we go into the thought process of them being bad kids or us being bad parents, it is essential to understand the developmental stages a child goes through and possible reasons that they have chosen not to tell the truth.
When kids are as young as two years old, you may hear your first twisting of the truth. It is also the time frame that they begin to pretend play and their statements when asked about something do not take into account what the other person knows about the situation. As children get older, between ages of 3-8 they are now more aware and the smarter they are, the more likely they will attempt to protect themselves from getting into trouble either with a lie or by blaming others for the misdeed.
During their tween and teen years as they are working on more independence, they may be trying to get to do things they have been told not to do to prove they can do it safely and believe it or not that they are trustworthy. Oh, that front part of their brain not developed yet, and their decisions at this point made without thinking beyond what their emotions and feelings are begging for them to get.
So here are a couple of tips:
- Show integrity yourself by letting your “yes” mean yes, and your “no” mean no.
- Speak po
- sitively and patiently without sarcasm or condescending
- Model integrity. Do not ask your children to do something that they see you do.
- Show them how to learn from mistakes and strive for excellence (not perfection)
- When your child tells you their first lie (and more) remember what developmental stage they are and try to discern what they are telling you they need.
- Telling stories, those you have read, your own, and examples that you see in the news are good ways of impressing upon them how important our word are in gaining trust with others.
- Asking them “What” and “How” questions will help even the youngest child to tell you what they are thinking and then you can use that moment to guide them to the virtue of honesty and integrity. Do not ask “Why”! They do not know any more than you or I most of the time.
As they get older,logical consequences need enforcement when they do not tell the whole truth. Determining what these consequences will be ahead of time is the best and especially if they are agreed upon by both the parent and child for when breaking this ground rule.
If integrity is one of the most valued virtues in your home talk about it regularly, use the word and acknowledge it in your children and the other adults in the home, so your children grasp how essential it is, and they will be guided to take it on as a valuable virtue for themselves.