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​​​​How to Raise Children with Integrity

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.

t is 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.

How to Instill Integrity and Moral Values in Your Family

The most important way to teach integrity and honesty to kids 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.

ty Activities for Kids

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.

The 12 Days of Integrity Challenge below 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? Get this free resource sent directly to your email – sign up here.

12 Days of Integrity Challenge​

Building Kids with Integrity

  • Day 1: Listening

    Challenge of the Day – Listening

    Challenge your kids to use their ears to hear someone’s story. Have them call up a grandparent or another relative and ask about their life. During the call, have your kids practice their listening skills by asking questions and REALLY listening to the answers.

    Dinner Table Discussion – (Questions for kids) What did you learn during your conversation that was interesting? Why is listening so important? How can listening to others help you understand them and why is that important? How does good listening make others feel? How did it make you feel?

  • Day 2: Kindness

    Challenge of the Day – Kindness

    Challenge your kids to spend the day watching for people being kind. Have them write down any kind acts they see and bring them to the dinner table to discuss.

    Dinner Table Discussion – (Questions for kids) What did you see today? Were you surprised by who you saw being kind? Did it change your opinion of anyone? How did watching for acts of kindness change your mood for the day?

  • Day 3: Feeling

    Challenge of the Day – Feeling

    Explain what a random act of kindness is and the impact it can have on others. Then challenge your kids to perform a random act of kindness.

    Dinner Table Discussion – Ask your kids to describe their random act of kindness. Talk about how they feel inside when they do something good as opposed to how they feel when they do something bad. Get them to associate pleasure with doing something good and the pain of guilt with doing something bad.

  • Day 4: Honesty

    Challenge of the Day – Honesty

    The challenge of the day for your kids is to “fess up.” Have them write down a confession about something they have done that other family members don’t know about. It does not have to be a negative thing; it could be a worry they have or a time when they did something nice for someone but didn’t tell anyone. The idea is to get them to open up and be honest about something they’ve been hesitant to share.

    Dinner Table Discussion – At the dinner table, you can share with your kids why it’s important to be honest and discuss the harm of lying.

  • Day 5: Assertiveness

    Challenge of the Day – Assertiveness

    Challenge your kids to stand up to an injustice or speak up for themselves. This is particularly important if they have witnessed or experienced any bullying at school. Challenge your child to speak out with a strong voice and a quick response like:

    • "Cut it out."
    • "That was not funny."
    • "Knock it off.”
    • "Friends don't do that to friends."

    If your kids are fortunate enough to not see or experience bullying or other types of unfairness or injustice at school, discuss what assertiveness is with them and different ways they can stand up for themselves.

    Dinner Table Discussion – Role-play with your kids some situations in which assertiveness can produce a positive outcome; for instance, you could pretend to be a child who asks your son or daughter to steal candy from a store. Their responses could be either, (A) “No, I don’t want to steal,” or (B) “I can’t. I have to go home now.” You can explain to your kids that by giving answer (A), the child knows you won’t steal. With answer (B), the child might ask you to steal at a later time. Also, ask your kids what happened at school that day and whether they had an opportunity to stand up to an injustice. If so, ask them what the outcome was and how they think the situation might be different the next day.

  • Day 6: Goodness

    Challenge of the Day – Goodness

    Challenge your kids to spend the whole day treating others the way they want to be treated. Have them keep in mind how they want to be treated and use that as a guide for how they treat others.

    Dinner Table Discussion – (Questions for kids) How can you take what you did today and use it in your life going forward? Why is it important to treat others with respect? Are there things you would change in your current relationships or how you treat certain people (siblings included)?

  • Day 7: Self-Control

    Challenge of the Day – Self-Control

    This can be a very fun challenge for your kids. Lay out six pieces of candy and tell them they can have two per day over the next three days. Then see if they can stick to the rule. Don’t give them reminders; let them challenge themselves and use their own self-control.

    Dinner Table Discussion – (Questions for kids) Were you able to meet the challenge today? Why or why not? What are some situations you might find yourself in over the next few years where it will be very important to practice self-control? Why is being able to control your impulses on even simple things a good idea (e.g., eating too much ice cream can give you a stomachache)? If you could not stick to the challenge today, will you try again tomorrow?

  • Day 8: Optimism

    Challenge of the Day – Optimism

    “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” For this activity, serve your kids lemons for breakfast and have them bite into a slice to experience its sourness. Then, as a family, enjoy some time together making real lemonade from those same sour lemons so your kids can experience how something that did not taste good at first can taste wonderful later and how fun it can be to change it.

    Breakfast Table Discussion – After you serve your kids their real breakfast, discuss the value of optimism and come up with other examples of how something that is negative can become something positive. Discuss the importance of finding the good in a bad situation and remaining optimistic.

  • Day 9: Fairness

    Challenge of the Day – Fairness

    Just after dinner, place each family member’s dessert on a high shelf and say, “If you can reach your dessert, you can have it.” Then have the adults or older children reach up and get their desserts and sit at the table. For the smaller children, have a chair or stepladder handy so they too can reach their dessert, with a little effort. Explain that while both situations weren’t equal, they were in fact fair.

    Dessert Table Discussion – Discuss how “fairness” doesn’t mean that everyone gets the same thing; instead, it means that everyone gets what they need in order to be successful.

  • Day 10: Conservation

    Challenge of the Day – Conservation

    Have your children come up with five things they do during a typical day that they could do differently in order to promote conservation. For instance, maybe they could cut their shower time in half, or draw pictures on the back of an old gas bill instead of using a clean sheet of printer paper. Challenge them to find five ways to be a conservationist throughout the day by making simple adjustments.

    Dinner Table Discussion – (Questions for kids) Was it easy or hard to find five things you could do differently? (Chances are, it was pretty easy.) How can you use these ideas going forward? How can the whole family follow the same practice?

  • Day 11: Perseverance

    Challenge of the Day – Perseverance

    For this activity, have your kids come up with something they think is impossible, like riding their bikes a mile. Then have them accompany you on a mile-long bike ride to show them that what may seem impossible can be possible with perseverance. Other options might include staying silent for an hour or saying the alphabet backwards.

    Dinner Table Discussion – (Questions for kids) What are some times in the past when you’ve had to practice perseverance? Why is it so important to have perseverance? How can you use perseverance in other areas of your life, like school?

  • Day 12: Empathy

    Challenge of the Day – Empathy

    Challenge your kids to identify something they own that they can part with and help them find someone in need to give it to. This could involve making a donation to Goodwill or wrapping up the item for someone at school who would enjoy it and may not have the means to buy it.

    Dinner Table Discussion – (Questions for kids) How did it make you feel to give something you had to someone who is less fortunate? What would it be like to be on the other side of that? What would your life be like if your family could not afford holiday presents?    

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