What would you do if…? Asking this question will force thinking and develop a thought pattern. If we expect our children to act with integrity, it must be taught directly. This is a gift that can last a lifetime. Integrity is the distance between our values and our actions. The closer they are tied, the stronger our integrity. Life’s ethical challenges provide the best lessons to clarify what it means to have integrity. Our example is the strongest lesson we can teach.
Here are five things we can do daily to show our children what integrity looks like:
- Apologize when you wrong your children.
- Speak with good purpose and avoid drama.
- Drive the speed limit.
- Keep your promises.
- Show respect to someone who may not be showing it to you.
Another effective way to promote integrity is to ask non-judgmental questions that force “thinking space”. My favorite question is “What’s the next right thing to do?” The space or pause creates positive neural pathways to be used when situations arise. “Front-loading” our children’s brains is a powerful way to help them think on their feet. Unfortunately, too much of our media has the same effect. Messages that promote unhealthy ethical and moral judgement also create neural pathways. We need to be a step or two ahead of the mixed messages from today’s media. Fortunately, there are plenty of day-to-day examples that challenge our integrity. These examples have a much more profound effect on your child than those on the screen. Don’t hesitate to share your strengths and struggles involving personal integrity. Solid examples and humble mistakes are realities, not fantasies. Like it or not, what you model will have the greatest impact on your child’s integrity and will counteract the influences from media messages.
“Wisdom is knowing the right path to take…integrity is taking it.” – M.H. McKee
“One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised.” – Chinua Achebe
“To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.” – Teddy Roosevelt
Our hand signal this week for integrity is to hold up both hands with our fingers spread apart. The left hand represents our heart, mind, body, and soul values. The right represents our heart, mind, body, and soul actions. The farther these two things are a part, the less integrity we have. Together, intertwined, we are strong and hold true to what is important and right.
Using the Character Counts traits to promote positive citizenship is a key way for us to unify our force to positively influence our children’s integrity. Being Trustworthy, Respectful, Responsible, Fair, and Caring make us TeRRiFiC citizens. When your child makes a mistake ask him/her which of the traits they messed up and then challenge them to complete five simple acts that will practice that trait and rebuild positive integrity. Say, “When you do one thing wrong, you get to do five things right.” Building integrity is the process of building thoughts that build actions, that build habits, that build character, and ultimately determine destiny.