Integrity Matters
April 7, 2004

For values, teach your children well, early

Question: (S-015)

Dear Jim:

When do children learn about integrity? What is the right age to start teaching young people about values?


Children learn about love, trust, nurture, care and integrity when they are held for the very first time. Infants seem to do better when they're surrounded by love and support, along with appropriate amounts of healthy food and thoughtfully structured music (some suggest classical).

In medical circles, a strong case has been made that imprinting is possible even before birth. If this is true, then the pregnancy itself can be considered a starting point for communicating integrity. Regardless of the exact time, integrity lessons begin early and never stop.

Children learn -- almost everything -- from what they observe in the behaviors of their role models, those who help shape the values of the next generation by their own example. These "value instructors" include parents and other relatives, neighbors, teachers, spiritual leaders, authority figures and celebrities. Certainly, children are learning from the media what society is sanctioning as tolerable, even if not proper and acceptable, all the time. If this is not the case, then why would responsible adults allow such information to flood the airways or the Internet?

In the late 1960s, Glenn Tubb and Jack Moran wrote a song called "Skip a Rope," and it reminds us of our integrity responsibilities:

"Oh, listen to the children while they play,
Now ain't it kinda funny what the children say,
Skip a rope.
"Cheat on your taxes, don't be a fool,
"...Now what was that they said about a Golden Rule?
Never mind the rules, just play to win,
And hate your neighbor[s] for the shade of [their] skin.
"...Skip a rope, skip a rope,
Just listen to your children while they play,
It's really not very funny, what the children say,
Skip a rope, skip a rope."

Integrity is being taught all the time. It boils down to one question: As a role model, are you exhibiting -- all the time --character, honesty, openness, authority, partnership, performance, charity and graciousness? If not, why not? Integrity matters, and it begins at birth and does not end.

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