How to Teach Integrity to Your Kids
C.S. Lewis once said, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” Oftentimes, we talk about this idea of honesty and integrity without grasping what it truly means. What if I told you it was not a single action but a mindset you needed to develop? Integrity is born in the mind and heart of a person. It comes from who you really are as a man or woman and what you really believe about right and wrong, good and evil. And integrity is exhibited not in just one act of goodness but in your whole character.
To teach your kids how to harness this vital virtue, you must first ask yourself if you really believe in the importance of modeling a life of integrity that your children can follow. If so, here are 4 practical ways to teach integrity to your kids. We need to teach integrity in…
1. What We Say
When you speak, people need to be able to trust that you will be true to your word. With a mindset of integrity established, you will find that you’ll be much more likely to speak truth and follow through with what you’ve said. This echoes the reality that we need to be careful to let our “yes” be yes and our “no” be no.Integrity is born in the mind and heart of a person.
2. How We Say It
Do you find yourself speaking to your children in a sarcastic or condescending tone of voice? Replace this attitude with a patient demeanor. Once you have developed a mind and heart of integrity, positive actions and words will more naturally flow forth. So hold on to your integrity by honoring your family in the way you talk to them on a daily basis.
3. What We Do
Perhaps the most obvious yet most important way to teach your kids integrity is to lead by example. I know I often remind my kids not to speed on the highway, yet constantly drive too fast myself. Or do you ever tell your kids to stop texting at the dinner table, only to check emails in the middle of a conversation they’re having with you? Start being a model for your kids and live a life of integrity they can follow.
4. How We Do It
We had a couple of guys come to our house to repair our air conditioning duct work. They didn’t repair it right, and within a year, we had to have it redone again. These contractors took shortcuts when they thought no one would find out, yet the truth eventually surfaced. Learn from their mistake and teach your kids to do everything with excellence from the start, even when no one is watching. Why? Simply because it’s the right thing to do.
Sound off: How do you teach honesty and integrity to your kids?
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4 Things Kids Learn When We Do Things for Them
If there is one thing I hate, it’s being late. My high school basketball coach’s trademark saying was, “If you’re on time, you’re late.” We were expected to get places early so nobody was waiting on us. Well, now I’m a parent, and I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve actually arrived somewhere on time. Someone is always missing a shoe, hasn’t bathed, or is starving, even though I offered them food 45 minutes earlier.
I get very frustrated because, inevitably, my wife and I become those parents who do everything for their child, just to get out the door promptly. We pile into the car, irritated, feeling burdened for having done it all ourselves while the kids wind up relieved of any effort. I want to get places on time, but my desire to be punctual can’t outweigh my duty to teach my kids responsibility. But I fail to teach them anything if I do all the work. Here are 4 things kids learn when we do things for them.
1. Their actions don’t matter.
When I pick up toys for my kids, they discover leaving a mess isn’t their problem. When I take out the trash for them, they learn chores can get done without their involvement. Kids easily get the false impression that their actions don’t matter when we do things for them. But their actions do matter to the people around them.
First Corinthians 12:12–27 describes the body as many individual parts working in concert to benefit the whole. A foot is not an eye or an ear. It can’t see or hear, but it can walk. Without a foot, the eye and ear are stuck in one place. Kids need to understand that their actions matter because inaction leaves a burden for someone else to carry. Doing your part exemplifies treating others how you want to be treated.
2. Their things are not their responsibility.
My son leaves his hockey equipment lying around the house quite often. It drives me nuts. It’s supposed to go in his bag when we get home from the rink. When it’s time to dress for the next practice or game, he frequently can’t find a sock or elbow pad. I stopped hunting for those missing items. He can find them, and if we’re late, that’s his fault, not mine.
One of my favorite proverbs says, “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.” It’s a lesson in consequences. If we do things for our children, they won’t fear consequences. Parents who do everything for their child rob them of this responsibility lesson. They won’t learn the benefits of chores.When we start doing too much for our kids, they become content to remain consumers instead of contributors.
3. Their needs will be taken care of.
Yes, I am responsible for the important things like food, clothing, and shelter. But, there are varying degrees of needs. Children are capable of managing life’s smaller needs. They can brush their teeth, look up how to spell things in the dictionary, and dress themselves. I’m not doing them any favors by holding their toothbrush.
Someday, all those big needs will fall on their shoulders. I am happy to handle them now, but we prep kids to manage tomorrow by giving them tiny tasks today.
4. Their desires trump everyone else’s.
Selfish kids end up as lonely kids. My greatest desire for my children is that they are loved and know how to love. The best way to show love to others is to live sacrificially. I am a huge fan of how the concept is explained in Philippians 2:3. It says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Parents who do everything for their child should keep this in mind. Becoming unselfish is one of the benefits of chores.
When we start doing too much for our kids, they become content to remain consumers instead of contributors. Teaching them to give to others before satisfying themselves will show them how to love others well.
Sound off: What things have you been doing for your children instead of letting them handle on their own?
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5 Things You Need to Let Kids See
We were all tired, so our family grabbed fast food and decided to watch TV while we ate. The one show we can all agree on these days is LEGO Masters. It’s one of those reality competition shows, in case you haven’t seen it. At the end of each episode, a team of two is always eliminated. “Are you crying?” my daughter said to her mom. I looked over and saw my wife tearing up. A team she really liked had just been eliminated. Not one to hide her emotions, she owned it immediately, “Yes! It’s sad.” My daughter turned and said, “I don’t think I’ve seen Dad cry ever.” I was shocked. It’s not like I walk around crying all the time, but I do cry quite a bit. As I thought about it, I realized I’d been hiding it. It wasn’t intentional—it was more of a natural reaction, shielding myself when I felt vulnerable.
The problem is that my kids need to see my vulnerability. It’s good for them. There are several things we either consciously or subconsciously shield our kids from seeing that are a disservice. There are things to teach your child that are best for kids to observe. Here are 5 things you need to let your kids see.
1. Your Emotions
If you’re anything like me, the one emotion you show easily is anger. However, sadness, hurt, and grief—and your tears—are all things our kids need to see. We should be in control of our emotions, but we shouldn’t hide them. When our kids see our vulnerability, it communicates that vulnerability is not weakness. Ultimately, it is a key ingredient for intimacy.If you’re living fully in truth, hope, and love, then there’s nothing to fear.
2. Opposing Worldviews and Lifestyles
Are you afraid your kids will see validity in a view you are opposed to or take on a lifestyle you disagree with or maybe find immoral? Join the club. I think most parents would put that as a top concern. It’s wise to protect your kids from concepts, ideas, and images they may not be mature enough to handle. But shielding your kids from opposing worldviews and lifestyles can give those views more credibility, or at least make your own point of view look shakier. This is especially true when you present a strawman version of an opposing worldview. Your kids will see right through you, eventually. If you’re living fully in truth, hope, and love, then there’s nothing to fear. Present the honest versions of all.
3. World News
Sometimes it’s difficult for me to turn on the news. There are so many horrific stories. But what’s going on in the world is one of the most valuable things to teach your child. Our kids need to be educated on different cultures and their struggles. If you are nervous about your kids seeing content that is too mature, there are news services specifically designed for children such as World Watch.
4. Arguing and Reconciliation
Arguing and reconciliation are important things to teach your child. Some people will say it’s not good to fight with your spouse in front of your kids. I understand the reasoning, however, I think it’s beneficial for them to see you fight, as long as you tell them afterward that you’ve reconciled (or reconcile in front of them). When you argue with your wife, it’s going to create anxiety in your kids. Often, we start arguing in front of the kids and then take the argument to a private place. We may reconcile, but if the kids never see it, they are left in a state of anxiety. So if they don’t see the reconciliation, tell them about it. When our kids see us handle conflict in a healthy way, we train them for how to handle their own relational struggles.
5. God’s Provision
Have you ever unexpectedly received something you needed? I read a story about a man in ministry who was out of money. He prayed and hoped he would receive a donation check so he and his wife could buy food. No one was aware of their situation. He watched the mailbox. The postman came and left, but no check. Then there was a knock at the backdoor. One of his supporters showed up with groceries. He said he was sitting in his office and just felt like they needed food. Not only have I heard many incidents like this from friends, but I’ve experienced them firsthand.
It’s easy to chalk up stories like this to coincidence or luck. Well, I personally don’t believe in luck. Matthew 6:26 says, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” God provides abundantly for us, and when we see it, we sense our value and feel loved. Have you seen God’s provision for you? How did it make you feel? When you see it, point it out to your kids.
Sound off: What are some other things to teach your child by observing?
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What Advice Would You Give Your Younger Self?
I have been a father for 38 years. Over the course of having 11 kids, I have learned a lot. There are plenty of things I’ve gotten right and plenty I’ve gotten wrong in that time. Have you ever wished you could speak to yourself when you were younger? It would be great to get just a moment to give some advice to your younger self that would’ve helped make life a little easier or better.
Now that I’m older and a bit wiser, here is some advice to my younger self about fatherhood.
Your day-to-day presence matters most.Be there, be available, and care about your kids. That’s what they want most.
It’s not the big things. The things that really leave an impression on our kids are not the big flashy moments. Your kids will remember your daily presence and accessibility the most.
Many years ago, I was going to speak at a banquet and I wanted to share a fatherhood story. So I asked my son Eric about the best moment the two of us spent together. I was expecting him to say something like being on the sidelines with me at games, going on trips, or going to Disney. Instead, he told me that his greatest moment was when we were moving and didn’t have any of our toys unpacked. We played baseball in the back yard with a broomstick and ball we made by rolling up tape. He said that was the most fun thing we’ve ever done together.
I learned then that it’s not the stuff that’s planned out or the sensational things. All of that is good, but the day-to-day, spontaneous moments you get to spend together will make the most impact. Be there, be available, and care about your kids. That’s what they want most.
Sound off: What advice would you give to your younger self?
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5 Ways Dads Make Things Harder on Themselves
Late in the afternoon, the day before Father’s Day, I was trying to fix my van doors. The part that makes the door roll smoothly had worn down on both doors. I fixed one side in twenty minutes and the second door was close to being done. I was right on schedule. The new part was in place and I was getting ready to connect the wires to it. The only problem is I forgot to turn off the automatic door engage. As I leaned over to grab the wire, I bumped the door and the wire retracted into the wall of the car. Immediately, I knew what it meant. I was going to have to take the entire interior wall off to fix it. My easy twenty-minute job turned into five hours of sweaty work on Father’s Day.
Nothing gets me more frustrated than when I create more work for myself. Unfortunately, sometimes as dads we end up doing things the hard way. Raising kids is hard work and the last thing we want to do is make it more difficult on ourselves. Here are 5 ways dads make things harder on themselves.
1. Being hypocritical.
Getting upset with your kids about their shoes being left out, their unclean rooms, or their chores not being done is fine, as long as you’re taking care of yours. Or how ’bout this one, you expect them to be happy with the life you’re giving them. Meanwhile, you live every day grumpy with a furrowed brow, joylessly trying to carry the weight of your responsibilities. Your kids will see the double standard and your hypocrisy. Your integrity will be called into question and so will any lesson you hope to teach them.
Making things easier: Model what you’re trying to teach and they will emulate your behavior. And do your best to live joyfully in spite of, or maybe even because of, your trials.Never establish a consequence you’re not willing to administer.
2. Making idle threats.
“If you ever do that again, you’re losing a toy for good.” That’s something we told our son when he was younger. He did it again. We made him get his favorite toy and, in tears, hand it over. It was gone forever. I’m not sure who has the bigger scar from that day, me or my son. It hurt, bad. The punishment was just. What he did was bad and he was warned, but it was difficult to follow through on. If I hadn’t though, my word wouldn’t have meant anything. He would know that I don’t really mean what I say. Jesus said, “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No'” for a reason. Our kids need to know that there’s power behind our words.
Making things easier: Set clear boundaries and well-thought-out consequences. Never establish a consequence you’re not willing to administer.
3. Not following through.
This is similar to the last one but slightly different. Do what you say you’re going to do. If you set a goal to lose ten pounds, then follow through. If you tell your kids that you’ll play with them in five minutes, then set an alarm and when it goes off go play with your kids. If you don’t, then your kids are likely to lose respect for you. You’ll be seen as undependable and not worth listening to. However, following through teaches your kids that your words have meaning. It teaches them that you are faithful and models that behavior for them.
Making things easier: In Luke 16:10, Jesus said, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.” Be faithful in the little things and your stature in the eyes of your kids will grow.
I try not to overreact, but I can definitely lose it. The problem with overreacting is it will make our kids want to hide things from us. It may be from fear of what we’ll do, annoyance or embarrassment at our response, or a desire to shield us. It’s like a wall going up in the relationship.
Making things easier: If you overreact, admit it. Tell your kids you overreacted and apologize for it. It’s the best thing you can do to win back favor. Then work on controlling your emotions. Write out the things that trigger you and how you’re going to respond differently.
5. Being inflexible.
As I wrote, having boundaries and following through on consequences are important. But there are times that call for dads to be flexible. In our house, video games need to shut down at 8:30. However, there are days when my kids’ friends are online playing after that time. Some days it’s best for them to connect and play with their friends a little longer. Being inflexible will make you seem disassociated from your kids. When I worked with teens, I heard them say over and over again, “My dad doesn’t understand.”
Making things easier: Hone in on what your kids really need. Listen to them and try to put yourself in their shoes. Be willing to bend occasionally when the moment is right.
Sound off: What are some other ways dads are doing things the hard way?
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5 Things Dads Need to Have a Vision For
Former NFL fullback Rob Konrad took his boat nine miles off the coast of Miami on a crisp day to do a little fishing. He was by himself. A fish started to pull, and as it did, a wave hit his boat, knocking him overboard. His boat was on autopilot heading east toward Bermuda. It was at that point that Konrad knew he was in trouble. He had to start swimming to shore. The sun was directly overhead, but fortunately, he knew what direction his boat was moving and swam in the opposite direction. As the sun set, it became his new direction marker. He ended up swimming for sixteen terrifying hours through jellyfish bites and a shark encounter. Miraculously, in the early morning hours of the next day, he made it to shore.
There are several reasons Konrad survived, but probably none more important than swimming in the right direction. If he didn’t know where he was going, his body would have eventually given out. Similarly, thoughts of his wife and daughters motivated him to keep going until he got home. If we’re going to be great dads, we need to know what we are working toward. We need to work on creating a vision for several important things. Here are 4 things dads need to have a vision for.
1. The type of people they want to become.
Dallas Willard said we are all becoming a certain type of person. What do you want to be about? Are there certain character qualities you want to possess? What do you want your kids and grandkids to say about you when you’re gone? You need to have a vision for the type of person you want to be. Creating a vision is the first step. Once you have your vision, you can start working on it every day.
2. The type of people they want their kids to become.
Just as important as the person you want to become, you have to have a vision for your kids as well. It’s best to think about it when they’re young. I’m not talking about their abilities, accomplishments, or what career they’ll pursue. We can certainly encourage, inspire, and help them hone and strive for those things. This is about their morality, charity, faithfulness, integrity, faith, empathy, kindness, etc. It’s the qualities that make up someone’s character and formation. Once you have a vision, you can start teaching and instilling.
3. What type of relationships they want to have.
Relationships are what make life full. We are made to know and be known. But relationships get messy, especially with the people with whom we’re closest. That’s why creating a vision for what we want our relationships to look like is so important. Then we need to map out what types of actions will get us there. Relationships will cause a lot of emotions, but we can’t let our emotions define our relationships. If the vision is healthy relationships, it will take patience, forgiveness, understanding, and reconciliation, to name a few.Love is a choice, and when we make the decision to love our ability to do it grows.
4. God’s purpose for their lives.
If we were created by an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent God, then there must be a purpose for our creation. Psalm 138:8 says, “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.” You may not believe that God created you at all, let alone with purpose. But what if He did? And what if there’s a wonderful purpose to your life? Wouldn’t it make your life better to know it and have a vision for it? Your life would be filled with tremendous meaning. Living out each day with what you were created for will bring you joy and a full heart. Psalm 57:2 says, “I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.” Maybe start by asking Him. I wouldn’t expect an immediate answer, but as you consistently engage Him, it’ll probably become clearer and clearer over time.
5. How much you will love.
Most people in the world put limitations on love. They love the people who love them: family, friends, spouses, etc. Then there are those who take it to a higher level by loving those who are apathetic toward them: maybe a neighbor, a person panhandling at a street corner, or perhaps the secretary at their kid’s school. They will think of ways to care for these people without looking for something in return. Then there are those who take love to the highest level. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Love is a choice, and when we make the decision to love our ability to do it grows. Loving enemies is the ultimate in increasing our capacity to love. If we are able to love our enemies, then loving others becomes easier. It may even become such a part of our nature it ceases to be a choice. How much will you love?
Sound off: When creating a vision for your life, what do you think of first?
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