We parents, for the most part, all want the same things for our kids. Yes we want them to grow up healthy, happy and resilient; but even more so we want them to be good people. Having integrity is a huge part of being a person with strong character, thus the reason why we strive so hard to teach our kids right from wrong. But the reality is our children cannot develop integrity unless they see what integrity looks like first. That is where you, the parent, come in! If we want our kids to grow up honest and truthful, then we need to model that behavior. Most of time we do just that too, but sometimes…
It’s 5:30pm and you are in the middle of making dinner when the phone rings. Your hands are covered in ground meat and breadcrumbs and you need to get this meatloaf in the oven if you are ever going to eat tonight so you ask your daughter to grab the phone. You look over her shoulder and notice on the caller ID that it is your Great Aunt Betty who loves to chat endlessly and gets her feelings hurt when you try to cut her off before she is through. In a moment of desperation you mouth the words to your daughter, “Tell her I’m not here!”
Children are smart, real smart and they know that telling Great Aunt Betty that you are not home, when you obviously are, is a flat out lie! Perhaps a justifiable little white lie because you need to make dinner and you were trying to spare her feelings. None the less, to your child that white lie is the same as if they said they didn’t eat a cookie even though the crumbs on their shirt say something else.
Being honest all the time is hard, but if we are demanding that our children be truthful shouldn’t they see us at least attempting to do the same thing? If we want our kids to be able to come to us when they have problems, to trust us, to seek and accept our advice; they need to know that we mean what we say.
So the next time you are busy when Great Aunt Betty calls, stop for a second and remember who is watching. Modify the old “She’s not home” routine, and perhaps use the “She’s unable to come to the phone,” or “I’m sorry, she’s busy right now” one instead; both of which are truthful alternative responses that will send the message of what integrity looks like to your child.