While we expect our children to imbibe good values, are we sure that we set the right example for them? What is our Parenting Integrity? Let us ponder…
By Arundhati Swamy
What has integrity got to do with parenting? A lot, you will see as you read on. But, before that, let us see what we mean by ‘integrity’. Everyone’s life is guided by certain core principles and values which form the conscience. This conscience serves as our guiding light and tells us what is right and wrong, and differentiates between the good and the bad (of course, it allows a few pardonable exceptions here and there!) Guided by the dictates of our conscience, we try hard to be true to ourselves and to those around us and that’s what integrity is all about.
It refers to how consistently and genuinely we demonstrate those values we profess and exhort our children to imbibe and follow the same. While speaking of values, we should bear in mind that there are wide variations in culture-based values; however, certain universal values do prevail.
A video on a social media site features a young child throwing a tantrum at the supermarket. She has accidentally hurt her older sister, and refuses to apologise, saying that it’s not her fault because she didn’t mean to do it. Embarrassed and helpless, the sister asks her dad to let go. But, the dad insists. After a bit of firm handling and patient explanations, he gets the girl to apologise. The next moment, a young lady engrossed in speaking on her cell phone, bumps hard into the little girl and walks away, uncaring and indifferent. “That’s not fair. She should apologise to me,” the little girl protests immediately. This is the moment of truth for the dad. His integrity is being put to the test. Emotionally drained by the event of the past few minutes, his hesitation to intervene with a stranger gives way to resolve. His girls are watching with expectation. He walks up to the lady and politely seeks an apology for his daughter. The dad’s persistence, along with stern support from the store staff, gradually transforms the indignant lady’s aggressive responses into a heartfelt apology. The dad’s integrity wins the day as he teaches a valuable lesson to his little girls.
‘Values are not taught, they are caught’, goes a saying. There are numerous occasions when, unknown to us, our children are keenly watching and learning from our behaviours, even the subtlest ones. How we consciously teach values determines how our children imbibe them. Human behaviourists emphasise that value lessons are best inculcated through patient explanations and never through punishment. For example, a child who is punished for telling a lie will only learn to dodge and cover up lies in future. On the other hand, a child who has pleasant learning experiences will feel motivated to practise a value genuinely.
So, let us make sure we use the right approaches in teaching values to our children. And, let us remember the adage - ‘Practice what you preach’. Otherwise, we will be guilty of double standards and our Parenting Integrity will be at stake!
Now, it’s time for a reality check. What’s your Parenting Integrity Quotient? Take the test; it will help you be aware of yourself and stay on track. (It’s a self-reflection questionnaire and, therefore, doesn’t have concrete scores.)
A few imperfections are acceptable; for, no one is perfect. Sometimes, we cannot help but tweak a value for a larger good or purpose, to protect someone or to accommodate an unusual situation. But, if we do cross the line frequently, how will our children learn the meaning of integrity and practise it? Remember, they watch and learn from us.
Arundhati Swamy is a counsellor and the Head of Parent Engagement Programs at ParentCircle.
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