Integrity with one’s children is the most important thing for Christian parents and caregivers to model. When we exemplify integrity…by consistently backing up what we say, it becomes the prepared groundwork in which our children develop a strong confidence in the love we have for them. So, all in all, when our words hold weight, then our children will know that our “I love yous” hold weight too! This in turn will strengthen their trust in God’s love for them as well, as they naturally look to us to exemplify God to them.
1 John 3:18, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”
The integrity we show is far reaching! As it will also make it much easier for them to listen and confide in us someday when peer pressure is pulling them in another direction…as they will have experienced that we truly do value them, as well as that we are someone they can always count on, because we have been someone that has consistently followed through with what we say we will do.
They haven’t just heard that we can be trusted, but they have seen it and experienced it on a consistent basis. This in turn penetrates the heart and does something mere words on their own can not do.
By the way, you will make mistakes during this process too. However, God says we can step back, and make things right again! So, don’t forget this…you don’t have to be perfect, which is also a good thing for your kids to see.
Jesus perfectly exemplified God’s integrity. In the following parable (that is so rich in content), one of the main things Jesus spoke about was the relationship He desires with us, as He was speaking about a good Shepherd who doesn’t win us by unrighteousness means, and will never stoop to doing it any other way. Therefore expects His sheep to learn to discern His voice over other’s. This in turn sets up a precedent for us and our children. The sheep learn to respond right away to the voice of the Shepherd because the Shepherd has consistently shown integrity…this in turn creates a trust that is hard to break. A trust so strong, they will not respond to anyone else.
John 10:1, “I can guarantee this truth: The person who doesn’t enter the sheep pen through the gate but climbs in somewhere else is a thief or a robber. 2 But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep respond to his voice. He calls his sheep by name and leads them out of the pen. 4 After he has brought out all his sheep, he walks ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice. 5 They won’t follow a stranger. Instead, they will run away from a stranger because they don’t recognize his voice.” 6 Jesus used this illustration as he talked to the people, but they didn’t understand what he meant.
It is much easier than we think to make this happen in our own family. Imagine sitting your child down and telling them that things are going to be a little different. That you are going to only tell them one time to do something and that’s it. So the next time you speak to them about what you want, they will have to listen the first time.
So, the time comes…and you give a clear instruction you know they are capable of doing. Then you tell them that they need to have it done before dinner at 5:30…or before the big hand gets here on the clock…or maybe you use a timer. This of course is up to you.
Then give them a warm smile as you leave and say that you’ll see them in a little while. Then go. You are the leader…and you are teaching them to follow your lead. Sure they may test you…of course, especially if you’ve all gotten used to a lot of yelling and commotion. But as they continue to see you confidently not giving in, things will get better rapidly.
Isaiah 32:17, “The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.”
(By the way, ‘drama’ likes an audience, so if they begin to act-out, leave the room…then when they calm down, come back and resume. If your child is younger and is having a temper tantrum, make sure they are in a safe place where they won’t hurt themselves or others, then leave the room.)
Now then, when you come back at 5:30 and let’s say they have not completed the task (depends on your child what ‘completed’ means…as it does not have to be perfect of course, but you see they have obviously tried their best to do as you instructed) then immediately, without anger, but with ‘quiet confidence’, carry out the consequences… which could be anything. Be creative! It does NOT have to hurt (every time).
You do not want your children to listen to you to avoid pain, you want them to listen to you because they are growing to trust your integrity, your love and trust in integrity itself…but something else too – they have learned that manipulating and rebelling does not get them anywhere either when it comes to you, then later on very importantly when it comes to God…and even down the road other authority figures that have integrity as well.
In fact you want them to get so used to only trusting in integrity, that they will learn to only look for and listen to integrity as they grow. This will give them the tools in which to help keep themselves safer in a world that wants us to trust the person that looks good on the outside.
Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
For that reason, children, in the times we live in, ought to be taught to rely on nothing else but integrity. The world will present to your child some mighty strong pulls in their lifetime. When they are very young – it is a big smile or candy that tries to persuade them to follow. Then when they are a little older, the ever looming pressure to be accepted by peers and for an acceptable outward appearance. Followed by the pressure to highly revere money, accumulating stuff and when they are nearing adulthood – power.
Obviously, these are not bad things in and of themselves, but because of the way they are very often presented and valued in society, young children can learn that a big smile or candy must mean the person behind that grin and those sweets is OK…or they forget to think about what kind of person they are all together.
Then later, because of their vulnerability, they learn that the latter things have a higher value than they actually do and so, unfortunately, they can very easily become cheap substitutions for authentic love and integrity.
It is in all of us to want to be liked and accepted…as this helps to encourage us to treat others with at the very least, civility. It is also in all of us to desire money, as it is what will help us provide for ourselves some day. Power is something that is actually very important for each person to have as well…and is something each child should be given, little by little, as they can handle it and use it carefully and wisely.
Childhood is the foundation of each person’s life. If created with the right ingredients, it will help children successfully survive the events in the years to come. Subsequently, the components of that foundation are very important. This brings us back to becoming a person who your child can look to for their need for love and for someone who they can truly count on…as well as a role model that they can look to who has made it quite evident that there are more important things in life then what society says are important.