Moral compass

Preparing Teens for the 21st Century Work Place: Saving Grace

In There's a Stranger in My House by Dr James Wellborn

Timeless universal values represented by an employee’s integrity will serve to distinguish them in an increasingly personal work environment. Curiously (and, maybe tellingly) discussions of important 21st Century work skills do not reference employees integrity (or the morals, ethics, values and character that compose it) as one of those important skills. And yet, without integrity (and a culture of integrity), employees have to be closely supervised, scrutinized and monitored lest they engage in some kind of illegal, unethical, negligent or damaging acts. Without integrity, they might be tempted to take an investor’s money and then create an elaborate ongoing investment juggling act where subsequent investor’s money is used to hide their ongoing theft and deceit. Corporate officers could concoct dummy corporations or illegitimate investment vehicles to hide losses, exaggerate profits or deflect responsibility for the sake of earning quick bonuses. Without integrity, employees would be likely to lie to, cheat and steal from their employer. The personal qualities that make up an employee’s character matters. These saving graces will be as important as ever in the highly competitive work environments of the 21st century.

There are seven core qualities that will help guide your kid to right action. Integrity is reflected in each.

  • Responsibility (i.e., personal accountability or answerable for one’s actions)
  • Compassion (i.e., deep sympathy and sorrow for the misfortunes of others)
  • Kindness (i.e., benevolence, consideration and helpfulness)
  • Honor (i.e., fair and respectful of others’ rights)
  • Honesty (i.e., sincere, frank, genuine and truthful)
  • Generosity (i.e., liberal–no, not politically!– in giving and sharing)
  • Courage (i.e., continues to pursue what is right regardless of difficulty, danger or pain)

Here is a broad review of parenting approaches that can help to foster and develop your kids character and moral development.

Model it. Do as I say AND as I do. One way your kid learns about how to be a good person is by watching you. During the course of our lives we can end up letting things slide or having experiences that start to change us for the worse. A beautiful thing about parenting is the opportunity it provides up for personal growth. What do I believe? Am I living a life of integrity (for my kids’ sake)? So, live your convictions. (Or, develop some fake convictions that you want your kid to have and live AS IF you actually hold those convictions.)

Notice it. Make sure your kid catches the myriad instances of character and integrity that occur all around you. Point it out in everyday life. Recount stories of actual noble people and their actions. Tell family stories of admirable relatives and what made them worthy of admiration. Point out people who are heroic. Point out people who are villains for not acting in moral or ethical ways (NOT because they are different or don’t follow your life style).

Teach it. Identify specific morals and values that are important guides to life. Give direct moral instruction. Tall about why morals matter. Have scriptures and stories that demonstrate morals in action. Repeat family myths of noble acts by relatives. (Create some new ones.)

Expect it. Set the bar high. Consider having a family creed or motto that can be easily (and often) used to guide moral decision making. You can do this formally by sitting down and drawing it up as a family. Post them on the frig. Or, better yet, prominently display the words in your home (e.g., paint them as a decorative border in the family room, make attractive signage, create family t-shirts, etc.). “In our family, we (tell the truth, help others, have integrity)” “I expect you to be a person who . . .”

Express it. Talk in terms of morals. Right and wrong. Good and bad. Acknowledge the personal struggle. (And, expect them to fall short at times.)

Encourage it. Catch them being good. “I’m very proud of you because you . . .” Admonish them for doing wrong (e.g., falling short of moral behavior). “I’m very disappointed in you. I would have expected you to . . .” Recognition, admiration, and disappointment are important parenting strategies for transmitting values.

Anticipate it. Project a view of your kid’s moral strength into their future. “You are going to make a fine man/woman” “The world could use more people like you.” Imagine with them the person you see them becoming. Help them be the person they would like to be. “Don’t you want to be a (honest, honorable, trustworthy, etc.) person? Let’s talk some about what that will take. When someone says/does . . ., what would you need to do.”

Guilt it. Don’t forget the power of disappointment and shame. “Is this the person you want to be?” “This is not who you really are.” “WWJD? (if you are Christian)” The golden rule (if you are a philosopher). “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”   (As always with negatively charged parenting practices, use guilt induction with discretion and with great care.)

Repeat it. Find every opportunity to work values and morals into a situation. Have character show up in your talk of self and others. Once is not enough.

Character is crucial to your kid’s future. It is a guide to right action. It is the foundation of real and lasting relationships. It is a basis for pride and self-worth. It is the criteria for accountability (and for holding others accountable). It is an antidote to difficulties, pain and suffering. It is the ultimate guide to living a meaningful life. When all else fails, character will save them. (Oh, and it might also help them be a better employee too.)

This site is a wonderful place to get some ideas and materials to use.