SOME OF US really do take integrity for granted…. okay, most of us do. It’s not something that you often— if ever—stop to think about. However, teaching and developing integrity within your child’s character is an essential part of a Muslim parent’s duty. And, yes, developing this cherished characteristic within your child is indeed an art of the finest form. Sure, it may not be an art form given a second thought by many—yet, it is one so important, so essential to the Muslim character. Most importantly, it is important to remember that developing integrity is something easily attainable by all.
Take it to the Limit
Knowing when to say “when” is an important life lesson—and one that is key to leading an integrity-driven life.
But teaching it is a weighty task which must be done consistently and thoroughly.
When teaching limits in life, as parents we must explain the whys of the decisions we make, as well as not forgetting to discuss the time we choose not to do something.
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Choices, Choices, Choices
There are so many of such choices. We can’t even go to the store without being forced to make countless number of choices…why can’t everyone just follow the KISS (“Keep It Simple, Stupid”) mentality?
Or, at least, that’s how some think—and I give thanks to Allah that most of us are appreciative of the opportunities we must make choices.
Why? Because learning to make choices, the right choices, is another essential part of developing integrity within a child’s character.
We all have that inner battle inside of us, one pulling toward the right and the other toward wrong. It is important that we teach our children that their inner voices lead to consequences—both the good and the bad.
We must teach our children to listen to their hearts, and ignore the voice that urges them to do what they know they will regret later, the thing that makes them pause—because somewhere deep down (if integrity has been developed) they just know that it is not right.
Who Done It?
Well, accountability is all about responsibility. I know I’ve said it before, and yes, I am gonna-say-it-again—we have an epidemic on our hands in our communities across the land. I like to call it the “Who done it” plague.
We never seem to want to pay the piper and fess up to our own shortcomings, or those of our children; it is always, every time someone or something else that caused it—never us, never me, never my child.
And, what does this teach our children? The Blame Game is always on, full play at all times.
And, what type of character skills does that breed? Irresponsibility, unaccountability—in short, fairytale land ideas, not real life fact.
So, to prepare our children for real life, which always has consequences, we must stop playing the blame game. We must start coming clean, taking responsibility in every aspect of our lives and showing our children that being accountable is a good thing, that it also has beneficial consequences, both short and long term.
Honesty is Always the Best Policy
More than anything—we must teach honesty. Honesty is a lost gift in today’s world. Everyone’s always looking for it, hoping for it, but just when we think we’ve found it, we open it up and it’s a lie packaged in white to look pretty.
Honesty, even when it is against ourselves—against our own interests. Some may totally disagree with that, I know. But a lie is a lie, and the truth is the truth; there is just no other way around it.
There are no honest “used car salesmen,” only ones that bend the truth to fit the situation.
You must think, when teaching your child each day: It is not about how much money they will make when they grow up—it is really all about their character, their integrity, their thoughtfulness for every human being.
And, why do you exist as a parent? It is because:
You are the Moral Compass
That’s right, you are it. You are the guide, your children follow, watch and learn every step you make, every promise you break. Your children will be a direct reflection of you and your own integrity—or lack of it.
If you stop by the grocery store and the cashier rings up the items and gives you back more change than you are due and you pocket it, saying to yourself: “It’s their problem, should’ve been more careful.” Then you are teaching your children that it is OK to accept others’ mistakes if it benefits you. There are numerous scenarios we could discuss, but you get the gist of what is being said.
A little analogy if you please: Integrity is kind of like a forest of trees. We take it for granted and don’t think much about it until it’s gone. And, you know what we do then: We become indignant, “How could this happen!” we ask. We race to plant the seeds in a barren field, desperately hoping to once again see the beauty that it once was. And, sadly, when all the seeds are planted, we look around us, and begin to realize that to grow the forest again—to reach the magnificence we once brushed aside and took for granted—it will take years to mature, but it will never, ever, be the same.
Yes, you are the compass that guides your child through the forest. You must be the one who knows the way out of the darkness, and have a vision for the light up ahead. It is your job, rather duty, to maneuver around all those trees to get to the open fields. You have to know that through every obstacle in your way, your children are right there with you and watching to see if you cut down the tree or simply walk around it.
It’s all about choice.