Children with integrity

Building and strengthening a sense of integrity in ourselves and our children

In my opinion, (and this is just my opinion), I truly believe that teaching children how to develop core values of responsibility, honesty and humility is just as valuable as the academic goals they strive towards at school. I also believe that even before children start school they can be taught, through demonstration primarily, values as complex as justice, determination and consideration. Teaching a toddler, for example, to share, to say sorry and to care for others can assist them in their formative years, preparing them for the steep learning curve that starting school brings.

Our sense of integrity, our values, are the very essence of who we are, they are a set of beliefs that each of us holds, often subconsciously, that we use every day to manage our behaviours and solve our problems. They are the necessary ethical standards to which we measure right from wrong, make choices and prioritise. Following our own set of values and leading by example our children, and anyone else for that matter, are able to watch, learn and establish for themselves what they consider to be important in life, in work, in play and in relationships with friends, family, acquaintances or strangers. Individual behaviour is shaped by the values we personally hold and it is important that we consider carefully which values we want to teach our children, when it is appropriate to introduce them and how best to assist them in developing these values as their own.

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We, as parents, are by no means saints, we do our best, we have good days and cra… not so good days.   Exhausted and chaotic are the common traits of a modern day family so it would be ridiculous for us to imagine that we can be perfect role models at all times.  We need to be realistic about this, we need have appropriate expectations of ourselves and above all forgive ourselves when we don’t behave as calmly or sensitively as we might like.  All I think we should ask of ourselves is to be mindful of our words and actions and mindful of the little souls watching our every move as much as possible taking into account the demands of our everyday lives.  However, there is no escaping it, if we have chosen to have children, we have something of an obligation to them to provide the best preparation for life that we can.  To show them what it is to be resilient, to love, to be grateful and to be generous. We as adults, not just parents, should be willing to actively demonstrate that it is praiseworthy to be courageous, clever to be resourceful, that there is tremendous power in simple optimism and the sensitivity needed to be compassionate is admirable and rewarding. Kindness, however, is one of the most fundamental, life-affirming, beneficial values we can instil in our children every single day. To be kind, however hard, unjust, unfair, difficult or threatened we feel is a challenge, and it is a challenge we all struggle with daily. To show children that being kind to everyone, deserving or not, and without waiting for a thank you or expecting anything in return is never a wasted act, it is without a doubt, a lesson worth learning. Kindness is empowering.

In this blog, the challenges each fortnight will elicit various values or combinations of values. Some of these values will be more obvious than others but in the grand scheme of things knowing which values are being encouraged really is of little importance to the children themselves.  More important are the feelings of accomplishment, of achievement, of self-affirmation, of motivation and, dare I say it, altruism which will maintain their interest throughout the year. My (back then) 10 year old seemed the perfect age for this sort of project.  His existing learnt values were being tested regularly in his everyday life s0 the challenges reinforced them and then, in addition, new values were being introduced even if just subconsciously and in the simplest forms. Deciding on 12 values was actually quite tough but as far as I was concerned whether my children understood what they were learning or not was irrelevant, what was key was that they felt like good people.  When all is said and done even very young children learn the power of a giving someone a cuddle long before they know what a cuddle is even called.   Initially young children will give you a cuddle because it makes them feel happy and safe and loved, then there is the reciprocation (being hugged back), they learn that it makes the recipient happy too, the cuddle feels affirmative, connecting, so they do it more to replicate those feelings – the simplest act of kindness and compassion.

The values:
Kindness, Courage, Resilience, Responsibility, Gratitude, Generosity, Resourcefulness, Compassion, Optimism, Patience, Commitment and Serenity

The odd one at the end you may have noticed has not yet been mentioned but I do consider it a value in terms of emotional competency. The ability to stay calm in your mind is undeniably valuable and can prevent lots of damaging health conditions attributable to stress and anxiety later in life. Children from calm parents will very likely become calm adults and avoid many of the conflicts we find ourselves drawn into every day. (My children are not so lucky, both Mummy and Nanny suffer somewhat with stress and anxiety and meditate to combat these characteristics in their personalities – Nanny even went to a Buddhist retreat – so we are working on it but we are also only human!). The ability to ‘let it go’ is actually an extremely useful lesson to learn early in life, for our children it will hopefully lead nicely into a more resilient and therefore hardy and adaptable adulthood.

So here are the values each of the challenges will work towards and their definitions thanks to my trusted and dogeared English Dictionary…

Kindness n.
1 the quality of being kind
2 a kind or helpful act

Courage n.
1 the ability to face danger or pain without fear
2 the confidence to act according to one’s beliefs

Resilience n.
1 the capacity to recover quickly and easily from misfortune or illness

Responsibility n.
1 the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone.
2 the state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something
3 a moral obligation to behave correctly towards or in respect of
4 the opportunity or ability to act independently and take decisions without authorisation

Gratitude n.
1 The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness

Generosity n.
1 the quality of being kind and generous
2 the quality or fact of being plentiful or large

Resourcefulness n.
1 the ability to find quick and clever ways to overcome difficulties

Compassion n.
1 sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others

Optimism n.
1 hopefulness and confidence about the future or the success of something

Patience n.
1 the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious

Commitment n.
1 the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc
2 a pledge or undertaking

Serenity n.
1 the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled