If integrity is about knowing right from wrong and telling the truth versus lying, it is also about keeping your word, commitments, and promises. As a young person, their obligations do not hold the weight that they will in later life. But what a child learns about promises and the importance of keeping them will affect them as they get older grow into adulthood.
Just as important for their self-esteem and confidence is keeping the promises they make to themselves. If they tell themselves, they are going to read every day for 20 minutes and then do not follow through they break trust in themselves. This erosion of faith in yourself over time is letting yourself down. Not doing what you tell yourself you will do, is like saying that you do not see yourself as valuable and you will begin to believe that you are not able to do it next time.
Losing the strength to keep promises you make to yourself begins to erode the trust you have in yourself to keep promises to others. Losing that trust from others is difficult to gain back and will take time and effort. So how do you develop this character trait of integrity of your word?
Both with adults and children, we start with the small promises. If we cannot keep the small commitments, then we will not be able to keep the large ones either. On the other hand, if we choose not to keep the big promises it will be easier for us to ignore the ‘small’ promises we make daily.
We may want to write the promise down as we are learning or re-learning to keep our word. Make it clear and measurable. When a promise is vague, especially with children, it is effortless to find a way to work around that commitment. Make that commitment an essential, high priority, to keep the promise. It may also need to perform it quickly or keep a reminder for the time and place that we agreed to complete our pledge.
When we keep our commitment to an activity, team or individual, others will trust us, think of us as mature, reliable individuals. Most important we are honoring ourselves as having value, not feeling disappointed in ourselves or like we let ourselves down again. All of this is true for children and adults.
So the three reasons we can use to explain to our children that keeping promises is important:
- Self-esteem and confidence
- Keeping faith in yourself
- How others view us – mature, reliable and trustworthy
Check out some of the simple starter promises that we can begin our children on so they are building self-esteem as well as trust in themselves while others see them for their integrity. Here is a link to a video about helping children keep their promises.