Teaching Integrity Through Actions and the Little Things

Periodically, my daughter’s school has special “Walk to School” days where the crossing guard gives out little treats or prizes with the chance of winning a larger prize if your treat is specially marked.  (My daughter won a bike helmet when she was in kindergarten.)  This morning was one of those days, and we walked to school.  For February in Montana, we lucked out and the weather was decent and it was a pleasant walk.  She got her treat, and I got a bottled coffee.  (The crossing guard also has coffee and juice for parents who walk with their kids.)

In the last block, before crossing the street at the light where the crossing guard gives out treats, I saw a woman parking her vehicle and getting out with her two kids.  One is my daughter’s age, second grade.  I also happen to know that they live on the same block as we do, just on the opposite side, and normally, she drives them right up to the school. But today, they crossed with the same light as we did, and the kids got a treat and the woman took a coffee.

The coffee and the pieces of candy are not the issue, but rather what the woman is teaching her children. And yes, I blame it all on the mother.  I would bet those two kids would have gladly walked the entire distance to school, just like my daughter.  They probably would have enjoyed it.  But no, instead, their mother taught them  the lesson that you can cheat, take the easy way, get over on the system, and still be rewarded.

What’s the big deal?  It’s just a coffee and piece of candy.  Wrong!  It’s integrity.  It’s teaching kids by example.  Right from wrong.  Honesty.  Integrity.  Honor. Keys to living with the Warrior’s Edge, these character traits are not sometimes things, when it’s convenient things, when I might get caught things: they are all the time things.  Everything counts!  In fact, it might be even more important with these little things, because personal integrity is doing when no one is looking what you would do if the entire world was looking at you.

Yes, I know walking to school with your kids can be inconvenient.  Besides walking to school, I have to walk back home too.  However, if we leave early, and I walk fast, I can be home at the same time as if I’d have driven her, and then off to anything I need to do.  So time really isn’t an issue.  But then, I’m in shape and walk fast too.  So if you can’t walk with them, drive. But don’t take the treats for those that walk!

Two weeks ago I gave a presentation titled Actions Speak Louder Than Words.  They teach better than words too.  Those kids are learning from their mom, just as my daughter is learning from me and my wife.  And kids learn more from what we do than what we say.  Developing unquestionable character and living with integrity are cornerstones to living a life of excellence.  And we teach these through our actions and the little things.