As adults, we know how important it is to keep promises. Here are 4 important facts to talk to your kids about regularly and simple tasks to help them develop this aspect of integrity.
If integrity is about knowing right from wrong and telling the truth versus lying, it is also about keeping your word, commitments, and promises. As a young person, their obligations do not hold the weight that they will in later life. But what a child learns about promises and the importance of keeping them will affect them as they get older grow into adulthood.
Just as important for their self-esteem and confidence is keeping the promises they make to themselves. If they tell themselves, they are going to read every day for 20 minutes and then do not follow through they break trust in themselves. This erosion of faith in yourself over time is letting yourself down. Not doing what you tell yourself you will do, is like saying that you do not see yourself as valuable and you will begin to believe that you are not able to do it next time.
Losing the strength to keep promises you make to yourself begins to erode the trust you have in yourself to keep promises to others. Losing that trust from others is difficult to gain back and will take time and effort. So how do you develop this character trait of integrity of your word?
Both with adults and children, we start with the small promises. If we cannot keep the small commitments, then we will not be able to keep the large ones either. On the other hand, if we choose not to keep the big promises it will be easier for us to ignore the ‘small’ promises we make daily.
We may want to write the promise down as we are learning or re-learning to keep our word. Make it clear and measurable. When a promise is vague, especially with children, it is effortless to find a way to work around that commitment. Make that commitment an essential, high priority, to keep the promise. It may also need to perform it quickly or keep a reminder for the time and place that we agreed to complete our pledge.
When we keep our commitment to an activity, team or individual, others will trust us, think of us as mature, reliable individuals. Most important we are honoring ourselves as having value, not feeling disappointed in ourselves or like we let ourselves down again. All of this is true for children and adults.
So the three reasons we can use to explain to our children that keeping promises is important:
- Self-esteem and confidence
- Keeping faith in yourself
- How others view us – mature, reliable and trustworthy
Check out some of the simple starter promises that we can begin our children on so they are building self-esteem as well as trust in themselves while others see them for their integrity. Here is a link to a video about helping children keep their promises.
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.
A new book argues that children are less disciplined than ever. Author Katherine Reynolds Lewis identifies several culprits and says there are several things parents, teachers and caregivers can do.
(Image credit: Michelle Kondrich for NPR)
Each month we will discuss one virtue with all of our students. This month’s virtue is Integrity. This will be defined in the following ways for our students.
Young students: “I do what’s right even if nobody knows or everyone is watching.”
Older students: Being true to yourself, your values, and your word
We are an education center, working with students on physical self-defense skills while empowering families to bring out the best in our children and ourselves – through the martial arts. We believe every child has 52 gifts in them already. They only need to be taught how to grow and use them in their life. Balanced Life Skills serves parents, teachers, and students to reach that goal.
Optimism is about believing and expecting that no matter what has happened that things will turn out well. So when any one of us, a child or adult finds it hard to be accountable for the mistakes they have made, they are in effect saying that they are having a difficult time believing that there is any good that can come from admitting to a mistake.
All of us make mistakes. Sometimes they are accidents. And sometimes it is a choice. So what is a mistake.? It is when we do something we wish we had not done. It may be something we said, an action we made or something that we are still learning about and tried and just need more skill.
So why do individuals cover up, lie or blame others? It could be because they do not want to get into trouble or it may be that they do not want to look bad, or thought less of by others. It could come from embarrassment or a fear of disappointing another person. They may be afraid that they will lose a friend or someone will be angry with them. They are pessimistic and see the mistake as permanent damage to themselves, even pervasive as in they “always” do this or this is just how I am.
We know though that anytime a mistake is made there is the possibility of a lesson being learned. When a person covers up or does not take responsibility they are in reality saying that with this mistake there is no lesson I can learn or will learn. The question we want to ask ourselves or our children is “What did you learn from this mistake?” If there is a lesson learned that we can put into practice – that is just a part of life and growing up!
So how do we handle mistakes as a Balanced Life Skills student?
- Admit it
- Amends (fix it)
Remember though that in making amends it is about making it better for the person we hurt.
None of this can be forced but if we approach mistakes as an opportunity to learn a lesson we will continue to grow and develop our virtues
As a parent we can ask our children after they have made a mistake – What lesson did you learn? What could you do differently in the future? What virtue do you need to help you with this situation? How can I help you?
Optimism is believing that that growth and learning comes when we expect to do better next time – no matter if it is a math test or how we speak or treat those around us.