Even conversations with young children can start exploring the idea of integrity, Price-Mitchell says. When you’re teaching kids about getting along with friends, for instance, ask if they value having friends and then ask what friendship means to them.
“Ask how they would like to be treated as a friend, too. It really is all about the fact that if we want to be respected, we need to respect others.”
With older children, discuss current events and incidents happening around the world; you might also talk about whether any of these events challenge or cause you to question your principles, she says.
Talk with your child about new ideas and be open, curious and flexible in your viewpoint, while being sure to look critically at both sides of an issue.
“Integrity is not just static, it is changing,” Price-Mitchell says. “You change your moral values over time, even as an adult. Change is really the only constant in our society if you think about it. If we don’t change, we don’t grow.”
Notice your child’s developing integrity and comment on it freely, Steier says, because research shows that when you praise a child for character qualities, children see themselves in those ways and those character qualities start getting built up. In addition, when kids are developing their identity, they’re particularly open to feedback, she adds.
‘”You might say, ‘You’re a really good person; I saw you take care of your sister (or classmate) and help her feel better’ or ‘I can see that you’re a caring person.’ ”
Similarly, when your child overcomes a dilemma or faces a failure or difficulty with integrity, share your pride just as effusively, Price-Mitchell says.
“Say something like, ‘I’m really proud of the way you handled that. You handled that with courage and you were very honest’ or ‘You handled that with respect for that person.’ Let your child know the behavior was valued. Don’t just say, ‘Good job’ or ‘You’re so smart.’ After a while, those kinds of phrases are meaningless.”