Why Teach Integrity to Teens?
We must be teaching integrity to teens because it creates a sense of wholeness. It is a discipline in many religions that prevents us from experiencing internal distress. Likewise, it is hard to be internally incongruent with how we present ourselves. Similarly, teenagers who are taught integrity are able to feel high levels of self-esteem.
What Is Integrity and Why is it Important for my Teen?
1. Integrity: This means you are the same person in the light as you are in the dark. When nobody is watching your behavior, is the same as it is when everyone is watching? If you own your own business, do you declare all your income, even your cash? If you tell your children they cannot be sexually active outside marriage, are you sexually active outside marriage? Over time your teenagers can tell whether you are hypocritical when you can get away with it. They follow your example. If you exhibit and value integrity, they will too.
By modeling integrity to your teenager, you are teaching them how to earn trust. Teenagers trust their friends who don’t gossip about them, pay them back when they borrow a few dollars, and who keep secrets they promise to keep. Correspondingly, your teenager is much more trustworthy to others when your teen has integrity. This means that your teen will keep friends, earn respect from teachers, and get along better with you. Consequently, your teen will have high self-esteem.
How Does Therapy Help Teach Integrity to Teenagers?
Counseling for teens can be very important in teaching teens integrity. One of the main goals of therapy is self-discovery. It is a lot easier to be congruent to your values if you’ve explored what those values are. Counseling then encourages you to examine whether you are being true to those values.
For example, I (Lauren) profess to live by Christian values. When I went through my own counseling, I discovered I was spending an inordinate amount of time exercising. After more exploration, my therapist helped me see that I was not living to my professed Christian value of having God before all else. I was putting my own body shape and appearance before all else. In Christianity we call this having an idol. No wonder I was living with emotional knots! I wasn’t living with integrity. Things in my emotional and spiritual life improved significantly after this discovery because I got my behaviors in line with my heart.
What Can I Do to Teach Integrity to my Teen?
There are a few steps you can take to teach integrity to your teenager. First of all, take a few minutes to write out what values you hold in your heart. Secondly, write out how closely you live to those values. Thirdly (and this is the hardest one), write out the values you are showing with your behavior that you don’t actually want. Fourthly, commit to a few small changes that will help you line up with your values. Once you have this down for a few weeks, try repeating the exercise with your teen. Most will go along with you if you first admit that you also needed a tune-up.
If you think teaching integrity to your teen is too hard given what is happening in your family, don’t hesitate to contact us to see if counseling can help.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT