As a parent, no doubt you’ve heard educators and religious leaders use the term “moral compass” in relation to raising your children. In most countries, teaching children moral principles and values falls under the parents’ responsibility. Schools and the workplace should reinforce these values as much as possible, although it doesn’t always play out that way.
How do you define moral compass? In simple terms, it could be defined as a person’s conscience, that inner conviction of our mind and heart that teaches us the difference between right and wrong. People use the term moral compass to evaluate an individual’s character and integrity. When it comes to raising children, parents can help encourage good behavior in their kids by helping to set their moral compass from the time they are young.
When you teach your child moral principles and values, you are developing his or her moral compass. Children as young as toddlers can learn the values of kindness, honesty and respect. The values your kids learn when young will have a tremendous effect on them as they grow. Children gauge the world around them by the behavior of family, friends, teachers and other people they interact with. Growing up in a morally sound environment will help children adjust into the regulated environment of adulthood.
The family is a child’s principle learning environment for physical, mental and spiritual growth. Parents carry the responsibility of raising their kids in a moral environment. It’s only natural for kids to copy the behaviors they see around them, especially from their family. Your personal value system as a parent will influence your child’s decisions and behavior as he or she grows. All your efforts to teach your kids moral values will be useless if these values are not reflected in your own life. The following guidelines can be helpful in setting the moral direction of your child’s life.
1. Decide What Values You Want to Teach
The first step in setting the moral compass of your child’s life is to decide the values you feel are important in his or her upbringing. Such values may include:
Young children will not fully understand the meaning of these values. However, you can point them in the right direction by using examples in daily living to teach them to do what is right. By being consistent in teaching values to your children, you give the aspect of having a moral compass meaning and importance in their lives.
2. Encourage Self-Direction and Making Good Choices
Once kids have been taught certain values and have a basic understanding of right and wrong, they should be encouraged to make good decisions on the basis of what they have been taught. Self-direction involves using their feelings and conscience to determine right from wrong and choosing accordingly. Everyday living presents countless opportunities for kids to engage with others and make choices on how they will act. Whether it’s sharing a toy, being respectful to adults or being truthful instead of lying, your kids need to see the importance of putting their values into practice in everyday life. By discussing situations as they arise, you can help reinforce the good values and behavior you desire.
3. Explain the Consequences of Poor Choices
Children should be aware that there are consequences for poor choices. In addition to being disciplined by parents or teachers, there are natural consequences for behaving badly and making wrong choices in their lives. Selfish children who constantly fight with others will soon have no playmates to have fun with. Children who lie will not be believed, even when they tell the truth. Kids who are disrespectful to grandparents, uncles or aunts will eventually lose out on their company. On the flip side, good behavior produces good consequences that can enrich your child’s life.
4. Teach by Example
The best way to teach morality is by example. Children may hear what you say but are more likely to copy what you do. Before you can teach your kids moral values, you’ll have to decide what having a moral compass means to you. Parents often differ when it comes to their definition of moral compass. They often expect more from their children than they do from themselves. This can be very confusing for a child. By making a decision to abide by the same values as you teach your children, you are more likely to see positive results in their behavior.
Dangers of Having No Moral Compass
Children face moral choices every day in the course of their lives. Having good moral training will help them make good decisions that will benefit them and others. Children who are raised without a moral compass have no boundaries or limitations in their behavior, giving them leeway to do pretty much as they please, regardless of the damage their behavior may cause. A lack of morality can lead to bad attitudes and habits, lack of respect for others, no self-discipline and control and lack of respect for rules and laws. Teachers know how difficult it can be to teach kids with no moral training. Bullying and juvenile delinquency are byproducts of having no moral compass to gauge a young person’s life.
Making good moral choices is difficult for children today due to living in a culture with a questionable moral compass definition and standards. Morality comes from believing in absolute principles and truths. Sadly, these principles have been slowly deteriorating in society at large. As a result, today’s youth have a harder time upholding a moral standard. Many parents teach their kids to use intuition and personal feelings as a moral compass. This leaves them vulnerable to their own passing whims as well as the cultural pressures of our times. Children and adults need a stronger foundation upon which to base their moral values on.
Before teaching morality to your kids, you need to have a clear concept of morality yourself. In other words, what is a moral compass to you? What moral values do you uphold in your life and consider worthy of passing on to your children? Where do your moral values come from? How do you justify morality from a secular viewpoint? Although the need for such values as honesty, compassion, kindness, respect, gratitude and fairness is recognized by secular society at large, to what extent are they practiced in a secular world? How these values play out in a person’s everyday life tells the tale of where their convictions lie.
Parents can only go so far in training their children to uphold moral values. Eventually children will need to learn to make decisions on their own. As pre-teens and teens mature and gain greater independence, they will encounter many challenges to the principles they’ve been taught. Faith in God can help strengthen our youth’s moral compass so they can make difficult decisions without compromising their moral standard.
Faith in God is a personal decision people need to make on their own. Whether parents choose to believe or not, they’ll still be responsible for teaching children the moral values they need to grow into responsible adults. A parent’s example will go much further than explanations in helping children understand the principles of living a moral life. As your kids grow, they will be more attentive to how you live and whether you “practice what you preach.” Although you’ll never be perfect, you can do your best to “walk the talk” and instill in your children the desire to the same.
There’s no substitute for moral training when it comes to teaching kids the values they need to live a happy, productive life. By raising your children with good moral values, you give them a head start in establishing a well-balanced personal, professional and social lifestyle that will empower them to carry the responsibilities of adulthood successfully.