How To Teach Your Child Integrity

How do you teach your child to choose between right and wrong? Here are a few tips to help you inculcate integrity in your child.

By Amrita Gracias

How To Teach Your Child Integrity

The recent ball tampering controversy by Australian cricketers has got us all thinking about values like honesty and integrity. What lessons do our children take away from unfortunate incidents like these?

We live in a society where values and dispositions don’t always exemplify integrity. As parents, we are not in a position to prevent our children from being exposed to the many social ills and vices that exist, but we can teach and instil in them the quality of integrity.

But, before we begin learning how to instil integrity, let’s understand what integrity means.

Integrity refers to the quality of having strong moral principles or beliefs which includes virtues such as honesty, compassion, responsibility, patience and character. It shapes our understanding of right and wrong, and good and evil.

Positive impact of instilling integrity

Integrity is one of the cardinal qualities that positively influences a child's character and behaviour. Here is how instilling integrity positively impacts a child:

  • It helps an individual anticipate the consequences of unethical behaviour
  • It helps us make the right decisions, which has a positive impact on us and others around us
  • It forms the basis of good relationships
  • It enables us to lead a happy and fulfilling life
“Inculcating integrity in children has many benefits. Although the learning begins in early childhood, this character strength develops through the growing years. The value of integrity is formed through various building blocks – their life experiences”, says Ms Arundhati Swamy. She further says, “In the growing years, integrity helps children with self-regulation, especially when they are prone to temptations such as breaking rules or lying their way through a tough situation. It gives them the resilience to withstand the pressures of adult life. Integrity also helps build dependability and reliability, trustworthiness and sincerity – qualities that are highly valued in personal relationships and work ethics. People of integrity are highly valued in jobs that require handling sensitive information, top-level decisions.”

Tips to teach your child integrity

6 – 10 years

  • Teach values: By the age of 6, a child can differentiate the right from the wrong. So, talk to him about virtues like honesty, compassion and patience and explain why these are important. Ask him what he feels about dishonesty or cheating, and why he thinks it is wrong. Help him understand that he must strive to make the right choice. It is common knowledge that a child learns by observing his parents. So, ensure that you model what you are teaching. You can do some simple things to model integrity like following traffic rules or not telling white lies to get out of a situation. Also, monitor the content your child is exposed to, either on the TV shows or the books he reads, to ensure that there are no negative influences.
  • Teach empathy: Start teaching your child about empathy from an early age to help her relate to the feelings of others. When she learns to identify with the feelings of others, she is more likely to make the right choice.
  • Use scenarios: Integrity is an abstract concept. Therefore, for most children, the idea might be a little difficult to understand. Don’t wait for an appropriate opportunity, such as your child indulging in a dishonest act, to give him a lesson on integrity. Instead, you can talk about scenarios that he might come across in his daily life to help him understand integrity. Talk about everyday examples to help him differentiate the right from the wrong. For instance, ask him what would he do if he saw his friend stealing a chocolate while in a shop. Or, what he would do if he saw his friend bullying someone. Constructing such scenarios will enable your child understand that he should do the correct thing even though it may not be the popular choice.

11 – 14 years

  • Help him develop his own sense of integrity: Your child is old enough to understand the concept of integrity. Ask him to explain what integrity means to him, and list out the virtues he thinks are important to have and ways of applying them in his daily life. Encourage him to make a list of rules that he will adhere to, as this will make him more inclined to remain honest and sincere.
  • Actions and consequences: A pre-teen or teen is often tempted to take shortcuts, mostly owing to peer pressure and other dilemmas she might face as an adolescent. And, as your child grows older, if left uncorrected, these little indiscretions can become a habit. Explain to your child that it may not always be easy to stay on the right path. But, if she gives in to pressure or is tempted to take the easy way out by making the wrong choice, she must be prepared to face the unpleasant consequences.

15+ years

In the later stages of adolescence, your teen is likely to come face-to-face with more and more situations that challenge his moral convictions. Show him ways to assert himself and stand up for what is morally right, and not bow down to pressure and compromise with his ideals. At the same time, teach him how to convince others to behave with integrity.

Integrity defines our character and beliefs. And, nothing makes you feel better than knowledge of the fact that you have made a choice that is morally right. So, help your child imbibe the invaluable trait of integrity that will help him lead a better life. 


Arundhati Swamy is a counsellor and the Head of Parent Engagement Programs at ParentCircle.

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