Actively Teaching Moral Values for Children
Setting a good example for children is a good place to start. However, parents must also be prepared to actively teach their children moral values. There are many ways in which parents can go about doing this, but following are some good ideas to start with:
- Read books together. Choose books in which right and wrong are clearly defined and read together as a family every single day. Be sure to also take some time to talk about what is being read so that children can ask questions, make comments and get the most from the story.
- Be selective about which videos and movies a child is permitted to watch. The Centre for Child Health, Behaviour and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute recently did a study in which one group of children watched only shows that promoted good moral values while a second group of children continued to watch cartoons that contained violent, aggressive behaviour. It was found that the group of children who has watched more “pro-social” TV shows were noticeably less aggressive, more respectful and found it easier to get along with others than the group of children who continued to watch shows that contained or promoted violence and other immoral behaviour.
- Talk about moral values in an off-hand, informal way. Use questions a child asks or comments he or she makes to impart moral value education to a child. Holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas provide good opportunities to teach children about virtues such as giving and gratitude. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are good opportunities to teach children to honour and respect their parents and grandparents.
- Get children involved in activities that help them to learn good moral values. Volunteer opportunities that are age appropriate for children can help them to learn the moral values of giving, tolerance and responsibility. Sports activities can help children learn the importance of working together as a team. Assigning children chores that must be done on a daily or weekly basis is yet another very important aspect of character training.
Moral Values For Children: Spending Time with Children
In order to impart good character training to children, parents need to spend time with children. Even children who are outwardly rebellious are looking for someone that they can be close to and follow; if parents are not willing to make time for children then children are likely to turn to peers who may or may not be interested in behaving in a morally acceptable manner.
An important aspect of spending time with children is listening to them. Ask children open ended questions that help you find out what they think and feel about something or someone. Taking the time to really listen to a child will help a parent know how to best help a child. Children who feel comfortable talking to their parents will also come to their parents for advice when faced with a moral dilemma that they are not able to handle on their own.
As children get older, chances are they will start to rebel against moral values and other important things that the parents teach and promote. This is to be expected and parents should not be surprised when older children start to question moral values that they have believed in since they were little. Instead, parents should anticipate such questions and challenges and be willing to answer them in a calm, clear manner.
Parents should never get angry at children who question or even challenge basic moral values such as hard work, tolerance and the like. Getting angry will not encourage a child to want to listen to what is being said. Furthermore, while anger may intimidate children into not questioning what their parents have to say, it will never make a child or teenager want to agree with his or her parents. Remember, the goal is not to raise “yes-men” but to teach children to embrace moral values not only in the short term but also the long term. The only way to reach this goal is to convince children of their own accord to want to behave in a morally sound manner.
Moral Values For Children: Unconditional Love
Everyone makes mistakes. Even children who have been given a sound moral education will at times behave in a morally unacceptable manner. When this happens, parents must discipline the child but it is just as important for parents to let the child know that he or she is still loved.
Unconditional love must play a prominent role in parenting. Children must know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that their parents will love them no matter what they do or say or do not do or say. Parents should remind their children often that they love them and that nothing will ever change this fact.
As was noted above, consequences must be put in place when a child crosses over the boundaries. However, these should be enforced in a calm, loving manner so that a child understands that it is the behaviour that is unacceptable, not the child as a person. Once the consequence has been given, then the incident should be put in the past. It should be forgotten about and not brought up again, even if the child makes the exact same mistake or a very similar one at another point in time.
Moral Values For Children: In Summary
There are many ways in which parents can help their children learn moral values and develop good character. Following is a recap of the above mentioned points for a parent’s reference:
- Make time for children. It is impossible to teach someone something of importance without spending a considerable amount of time with the person in question.
- Set a good example. Children are more likely to copy a parent’s behaviour than to listen to his or her lectures or advice.
- Make rules and set consequences in place for breaking these rules. The rules do not have to be long or complicated but they should be clear. If children are old enough, actively involve them in making the rules and setting down punishments for various types of mis-behaviour.
- Actively teach moral values. Use opportunities that arise to promote good moral values and to even give children hands on experience in putting what they are learning into practice.
- Make sure that a child is reading morally sound material and keep an eye on what he or she is watching on TV or on line. Children will mimic what they see and hear so make sure that what they see and hear backs up the moral values that are being taught at home.
- Listen to children. Actively make an effort to find out what they think and feel and then pay full attention to what they have to say. At the same time, do not be surprised if a child challenges the moral values that are being taught. This is a normal phase that all children go through. Calmly talk with the child about the issues he or she is facing and help the child understand the importance of the moral values and basic character guidelines that he or she has been taught to believe in from a young age.
Love your children unconditionally and never lose faith in them. Children make mistakes and will regularly say and do the wrong things. However, where there is life, there is hope. Any child can learn to not only behave in an appropriate manner but also embrace moral virtues that will help him or her lead a happy, fulfilling life. When children know that they are loved, they will be more inclined to want to behave in an acceptable manner.
It will take time and a lot of hard work to help children learn good moral behaviour. It is, in fact, a job that is never really done until a child reaches adulthood and then takes the responsibility for making his or her own life choices. However, parents who take the time to teach their children good moral values will, in the end, see the fruit of their labours. The children will have a good moral foundation to build their lives on and will be happy, productive citizens of society as a result.