You have many jobs as a parent. You must keep your children safe from harm. You must clothe, feed and shelter them. You must see to their education and their health. You must nurture and support them as they grow, both physically and mentally. And you must teach them – both by example and by instruction – the many virtues that make up the notion of integrity.
So what is integrity? It’s a combination of many things: honesty, empathy, compassion, fairness… traits that identify a person as someone who can be trusted and counted upon. Another word would for it would be character. A person who exhibits integrity and character is more apt to be liked and respected by others. Down the road, that means a better job, a better spouse and a better life in general. Which is why it is so crucial to instill it in your children early on.
So how does one go about raising a child with integrity?
The most important way is by setting a good example. Children are like sponges, soaking up everything around them, both good and bad. So before you set about teaching your kids integrity, you first need to take a good, long look in the proverbial mirror and ask yourself if you exhibit it.
For instance, when a clerk gives you back more change than you deserve, do you say something to him, or do you remain quiet and consider his mistake your good fortune? What may seem like a harmless little windfall can teach your child that, in effect, stealing is ok in certain situations.
Or maybe you’re have a serving of cheesecake after a large dinner, protesting, “Well, I really shouldn’t, but it’s just one small piece.” In this instance, you’re teaching your child that greed is sometimes justified.
So you can see, as a parent, you are the most important factor in your child becoming an adult of character and virtue. As the famous anti-pot commercial says, “I learned it by watching you!” Cheesy though it may seem, that commercial is right; your kids really do learn by watching you.
But you are not the only factor. In addition to teaching your children integrity and character by modeling it for them, you can also teach them through instruction, using activities and lessons that can help them understand not only the meaning of certain traits but also their benefits – both to themselves and to others.
For a list of such activities, check out our 12 Days of Integrity challenge. It was developed by the parenting experts at Boys Town and provides a list of simple, easy-to-follow activities that can help your kids become better people.
In the end, integrity is a major component in what makes a person good. In fact, it’s impossible to be good without it. And what parent doesn’t want to raise a child who’s good?