Dr Joyce Willard Teal


Are You Raising One of the Next Generation of Hoodlums:
The Importance of Integrity

We are not born with integrity. Integrity is a value based on honesty and developed over a lifetime. It requires consistent demonstrations from parents as well as verbal instructions about integrity. In many situations, our society challenges our quest for it. Many do not appreciate that integrity works both ways. For example, Sam looks at his receipt and sees that he has been overcharged at the grocery store. He will request a refund, of course. However, if Sam observes that he has not been charged for an item, is it a given that he will go back and pay for it? A person with integrity would, no matter how small the undercharge was. The store assistant may be very surprised at such honesty, but this reaction just shows how society has drifted away from what should be a given.
Each child is born with a clean slate, and what we write on the child’s slate is what we instill. If you are serious about assuring that your son becomes a person of integrity, you must be particular about what is written on his slate. You must teach your child that integrity means that your word is your bond, and that we fulfill our obligations to the best of our ability as promised and when promised. Do not take for granted that your child understands what it means to be a person of integrity. Take time to explain what it means clearly and regularly. Take advantage of teachable moments as you deal with people on a daily basis, to point out examples of integrity, or the lack thereof, when certain situations occur in which your child is involved or is merely an observer.

It is often baffling why people are afraid to commit themselves. Will they be disappointed? Will they HAVE to go once they say they will? Have they had some bad experiences? Were they raised by parents who refused to commit? Should they keep their options open just in case? In any event, a lack of integrity is demonstrated.

Lawrence Kohlberg, a well-known behavioral researcher who has extensively studied the moral development of children, described clear stages of moral development. He says that in the earliest stage, children choose not to do wrong because of the fear of punishment by God or their parents. As they develop more into their teens, they gain more experience and knowledge and start to reason things through. They make more educated decisions because they develop a sense of ‘good’, ‘fair’, and ‘right’. As they interact with society and have greater responsibilities, they understand that rules and laws are created for the greater good. They see themselves being part of a bigger world. The highest level of Kohlberg’s moral development is when a person makes decisions based on drawing from his own understanding of what is right, rather than not breaking the law, purely out of fear of the consequences. Age means nothing. It is our level of understanding that creates maturity and, therefore, integrity.

The following can assist you to teach the importance of integrity to your child.
• First and foremost, demonstrate integrity in your interactions with your child.
• Assure that your child understands why we have rules, boundaries and expectations.
• Require your child to articulate to you why we have rules, boundaries and expectations.
• Be aware that children need to be trained, and they need to experience consequences when they make inappropriate choices.
• Praise should be liberally given when wise choices are made.
• As a parent, display integrity consistently.

Parents: You cannot teach integrity unless you are a person of integrity. Please keep in mind that when integrity is compromised, memories are very long.

Picture of Joyce W. Teal

Joyce W. Teal

Dr. Teal began writing professionally in 1995 and has had several award-winning poems published. Her first book, It’s O.K. To Be Different, was written for boys and girls between the ages of nine and fifteen, but has universal appeal, has since been published in a New Millennium Edition. It is currently being read by children as well as adults.