A building has integrity when it is built with solid, long-lasting materials. A hypothesis has integrity when it can be tested and proven via a series of scientific methods. And a person is said to have integrity when he or she acts with honesty, consistency and goodness.
Interestingly, the word integrity is derived from the Latin “integer,” which means whole or complete. To that end, integrity is a complete set of values that allow someone to think, speak and act with integrity on a holistic level.
While some values can be specific to a culture or geography, integrity is a global, universal value, like love, compassion, peace, respect and responsibility. Integrity knows no boundaries in terms of location, age, gender, class, culture, race or religion. Indeed, integrity is a human value that, when it transcends the globe, serves to make people happier, more peaceful, more aware and more thoughtful.
Integrity can seem like an abstract value or concept, but it becomes pretty clear when you start evaluating kids’ habits. According to a recent CNN report, about 85 percent of kids say that they have cheated by the time they graduate from high school, whether it is copying a neighbor’s math test, plagiarizing from the Internet, a library book or another source, integrated library system texting answers during tests and more. While younger kids are more guileless and innocent about cheating and may not even realize that it’s wrong right away, it is important to address this issue – with integrity – early on, so that children grown up understanding the value of honesty and integrity.
Integrity is truly integral to an individual’s system of ethics, values and morals. As a parent, caregiver or child educator seeking to teach and show the value of integrity, this process will involve both subjective and objective measures. You can discuss the concept as a whole, but you must also share specific, real-life examples of integrity in the community and world.
Consider the following tips for sharing the global value of integrity with the children in your life:
Be a role model. With kids, actions really do speak louder than words. If you are talking to your kids about integrity and its importance, but treating store clerks with impertinence or impatience, cheating your clients out of money or talking about your friends behind their backs, the message will get more than muddled. Let your kids see you greeting strangers with a smile, letting someone know if they gave you too much change for your purchase and avoiding the temptation to cut in line. Likewise, recognize other role models, from a celebrity to a neighbor to a teacher, who your kids can identify with.
Keep your promises. This is another big deal to kids – when you say that you are going to do something, do it. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Follow through, stay true to your word and keep your promises when it comes to parenting with integrity.
Talk. Talk about shows on TV that show people acting both with and without integrity. Talk about the latest local, national and international news stories. Talk about whether your children’s friends are cheating. Talk about your day. Be open to discussing whatever is on your children’s minds when it comes to the concept of integrity.
Have consequences. If you catch your child lying, cheating, stealing or otherwise acting without integrity, don’t let the action go unnoticed or unpunished. Make it clear what the consequences for this type of behavior are and then follow through.
Celebrate. On the other hand, when your kids do the right thing, acknowledge and celebrate their good behavior and let them know that you understand that it can be challenging to do the right thing sometimes. Whether it’s something as simple as your son giving credit to his sister for putting the dishes away or as large as growing and donating hair to Locks of Love, it’s important to recognize the good.
While philosophers talk about artistic integrity or professional integrity, personal integrity – the integrity of character and actions – is the most important value of integrity that you can teach your kids. When more people in the world act with integrity – thinking about others first and reaching out in line with their moral code – the world will be more whole, more complete and more alive with the global value of integrity.