One of the most (if not the hardest) jobs in the world is parenting. Parenting has become even more challenging as technology continues to develop, as children have much more access to the rest of the world. One of the things that we all hope for children is to develop a strong character and have strong morals and ethics. Integrity is when we practice being honest and demonstrating strong ethical and moral principles. It is a necessity for parents to teach their children integrity and know the importance of integrity so that they can try to make the best decisions throughout their lives. So how do we teach integrity to children?
Luckily, children are extremely empathetic and compassionate. As much as children may be distracted by other things, children are still very much attuned to the acts of parents, siblings, teachers, and with other individuals who they spend a lot of time with. They are always observing and watching the behaviours of people that they care about because if they know you are good, they feel good.
One of the ways in which parents can teach their children integrity is through the ability of being honest. For example, when you tell your child that you will take them to get a treat after their soccer game, but do not follow through, this can be very disappointing for a child. When a parent doesn’t follow through often, it can have a big impact on a child’s mental wellness. However, it is also important to know that it is okay to say “no” when you feel that your cup is too full. Sometimes the only opportunity you may have to grab yourself a treat or do something for yourself may be during the time your child is at an appointment or soccer game. It is necessary for parents to take care of themselves first, and demonstrate to children how important it is to put your mental and physical health first.
We can also teach integrity to children through accountability, and taking responsibility for our actions. When we make mistakes and take ownership over them, we teach children self-regulation, especially when children are tempted to lie or break rules. Through lessons on integrity, children also develop qualities such as trustworthiness, dependability, reliability, and resilience. It is important for children to take the time to become aware of their mistakes, and what they learned from them.
As children grow into adolescence, they will encounter more experiences that challenge their morals and ethics. Demonstrating and teaching children how the value of sticking up for themselves, and how to set boundaries with others. This can be very difficult as they are afraid of receiving disapproval from their peers, or fear of disappointing people around them. However, boundaries can really help children advocate for themselves in times when they may feel overwhelmed, and unsafe. Boundaries also help individuals develop healthy relationships, especially when managing them face-to-face, or online.
It is important that as adults we show integrity when posting things through social media. Social media can be a dangerous place for people to portray themselves as different people, or to voice themselves in a way that would not be experienced face-to-face. Parents can demonstrate integrity with social media by limiting their time on it, just as we expect children to. It is also important to be careful with the things that are being said online and lead by example. Facebook, Instagram, and other social media outlets can be great ways to connect with each other, but requires us to show ourselves authentically, and also generate boundaries about how much we share as well. Encourage children to be kind to others online, even if they do not agree with what people are saying. Teach them healthy ways to manage conflict that may arise from what they see written online.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”Maya Angelou
Lastly, model the “golden rule”, which means treat others the way you want to be treated. When children see parents gossip or speak negatively about others, we want to set boundaries around when and how often a child experiences this. We want to emphasize children’s abilities to see good in others and demonstrate compassion and empathy towards others. These qualities are children’s superpowers, so be aware of how often children are exposed to them. For example, when parents are going through a difficult separation, it is important for the child to not be influenced by the negativity that parents may have towards each other. Parents need to develop healthy co-parenting relationships to ensure that children have the best care possible, regardless of whether the parents are able to be together or not. Children have very different relationships with each parent regardless of the parental arrangement, it is important to encourage children to come to their own decision of how they would like their relationship to be with each parent. Children who demonstrate integrity in their lives will allow them to choose what is best for them in difficult circumstances.
Don’t underestimate those little teachable moments that you have with your child. You never know how much it may help your child develop a strong integral character.