When addressing each of our Core Values with our youngest students, it seemed most appropriate to save integrity for last. Certainly not because it was the least important, but because it is all encompassing. A person with integrity knows the difference between right and wrong and chooses to do the right thing, even when it is a hard choice and/or no one is looking. A person with integrity is honest, trustworthy and has strong moral principles. People with integrity are the ones we want our children to look up to, emulate and become.
These habits of integrity are the expectations to which we need to hold children from a young age. Bad habits developed early are the hardest to break. If we look at the first four Core Values, we can see that being respectful of others and our world, acting responsibly in all aspects of life, and feeling and acting compassionately towards others are all parts of having integrity. We help children gain the knowledge of their importance and to act accordingly.
One more ingredient of integrity, though, is honesty. Preschool children need to develop an understanding of the difference between joking and lying, which to them may be blurred. They will fare better if they learn from experience that there are consequences for not telling the truth; and it is better to experience small consequences now than larger ones that might come later. Therefore, we must hold children accountable for their words as well as their actions.
To help preschoolers learn the importance of being honest and trustworthy, we must model it and also discuss it. Carefully screen and limit what your children watch on video and television as many programs convey the opposite actions in deeds and/or words.
When they are exposed to some of the less desirable pop culture and news, talk about it at their level of comprehension. Engage in family activities that promote interaction and conversation rather than relying on technology. Choose books that emphasize the qualities you want your child to develop. There are many children’s stories that are wonderful conversation starters, and I encourage you to include them in your daily storytimes.
Develop the habit now of having comfortable conversations about values with your children. It will pay off later.