• When children show integrity, they should be admired by their parents
• This will make them feel good about doing what is right
Parents tend to rate the success of their children on their results at school and their achievements in sport and other extra-curricular activities, like drama and art, while giving lesser importance to developing human virtues, especially integrity. It is easy to downplay the importance of building social virtues, which begin at home, and families are the primary teachers of truth, honesty and fairness.
We are not born with integrity. It stems from influences from all spheres of our life, and today is under threat as a result of the pursuit of material success. Children are exposed to media and online coverage of deceit and dishonesty, which undermine integrity.
Children’s integrity, including social responsibility, humility and the will to stand up for what they believe is right, are developed by all the influences in life. Research shows that families remain the key teachers of integrity. The process of guiding children at home is supported by schools.
Most families have positive values stemming from culture or religion. In democratic societies, integrity has a critical role in social harmony. This should be discussed freely at meals or when interacting with children.
When talking about integrity and human virtues, it is important to use words like honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility and courage. Mealtime conversations can be livened up by referring to examples of social values and by encouraging children to talk about them.
Always recognise and reward respectful behaviour to show that the quality of children’s lives goes beyond examination successes and is of great importance. Parents should show that courage, honesty and respect for other people are more valuable than wealth. When children show integrity, they should be admired by their parents, which will make them feel good about doing what is right.
There are bound to be failures during the integrity learning process. Children should learn that being disrespectful to others harms friendships and they will realise that cheating will in due course affect their reputations. These consequences will enhance the understanding of the importance of integrity.
It is impossible to control a child’s behaviour, but parents can be consistent when reinforcing family values. Expectations should be stated time and again that dishonesty or disrespect are unacceptable and have consequences, which can be clearly explained at every opportunity.
In this digital age, parents need to explain all aspects of proper social networking manners, digital literacy and applying correct moral conduct. From time to time, children will face disrespectful behaviour online and feel bullied or threatened. When this happens, they should be taught to seek support from parents or mentors.
Never forget that children see parents as role models. This means they are constantly watching and learning from their parents, who should stress that social values like integrity are part of a rewarding life. Parents who instil self-efficacy in children by appreciating their acceptance of social values in addition to their achievements give them a strength to believe in themselves, and living with integrity becomes a way of life.
The last word comes from Warren Buffet, a highly successful businessman who said, “In looking for people to hire, I look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy. And if they don’t have the first one, the other two will kill you.”
Jenny Coetzee is the managing director, Crawford International School