Have you ever asked your child to do something and had them promise that they will do it in a minute? If your kids are anything like mine, many times you have to ask again because your child forgot or simply chose not to obey. Besides being frustrating for parents, not following through on things your child has said he will do is an integrity issue. Integrity is a big-sounding word that simply boils down to following through and doing what you say you will do. Learning to have integrity is so much easier when you’re young than it is when you’re grown. The consequences for lapses in integrity are much smaller at 8 years old than they are at 28 years old.
Unfortunately, integrity is sorely lacking in much of our world. We expect politicians to lie to us to get our votes. Some kids have parents who consistently tell them one thing and do another. We are sometimes surprised when a public figure actually follows through on a promise. All of these things are working against us as we try to teach our children to be girls and boys of integrity.
Wrapped up in integrity are the concepts of truthfulness, loyalty and hard work, so when you focus on integrity, you get a lot of bang for your buck. God wants us to have integrity. James 5:12 says “Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’” God doesn’t want us to spend our time talking about what we’re going to do, He wants us to do what we say. When we say “Yes” to something, He wants that to stand by itself because people will know that we will follow through.
Integrity is a great topic to spend some time on this summer, even if it’s not something with which you see your kids struggling. It’s never a bad idea to reinforce the idea that we need to follow through on the things that we say.
• Take a look at your own life. Are you displaying integrity to your kids? Do you follow through on what you say, even in the area of discipline? If you’re going to focus on integrity with your kids, then you have to be living a life of integrity yourself. If your kids hear you telling them to always follow through on their promises, yet you don’t, your kids will not believe the importance of integrity in their own lives.
• Talk with your kids about what integrity means. With younger kids, simply focus on the fact that integrity means doing what you say you will do. With older kids, talk with them about how integrity also means living our lives so that they follow God’s plan. Once we decide to become a Christ-follower, part of being a person of integrity means that we live our lives according to God’s truths and commands.
• Make this your family’s summer of integrity. Create integrity tickets. When you catch your kids following through on things they said they would do, give them a ticket. If they don’t follow through on something, make them pay you a ticket. On whatever schedule works for you, set a time to claim rewards with your tickets. You can make the tickets pay for TV or video game time or you can let your kids “purchase” some small treats or toys. Include any adults in the house in the system, so your kids can hold you accountable as well.
• Create a 3-second rule. If your kids are asked to do something, tell them they should take 3 seconds to think about their response, then give the most truthful response. You can even have them count it out loud or hold up their fingers as they count. Teaching your kids to think about their answers before they open their mouths allows them to think about how their answer will affect their integrity. Remember if you institute this rule, you’ll need to wait for your kids to respond to your requests and commands. Don’t get impatient until after you’ve counted to three.
• Make attitude a part of the lesson. If we grudgingly do what we said we were going to do, then we’re not really displaying Godly integrity. Colossians 3:23 says “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” If we’re working for God and not for man, then our hearts need to be joyful in serving the Lord. Create a joy reward for when you find your kids joyfully doing a task they normally find distasteful. If you’re using the ticket system, you can hand out extra tickets. If not, then come up with some other type of reward – extra TV time, a later bedtime, some special time with mom or dad.
Keeping the focus on integrity all summer long will hold your children accountable for doing what they say they are going to do. The three-month focus will help change attitudes and habits and will help your kids become children of integrity.