Teaching your child good morals may be one of the greatest challenges of parenthood. Morals are complex and abstract, and are a concept that is often difficult for children to grasp. And because morals can differ across cultures and religions, it can be even more complex to explain to children why the morals your family lives by are important and valuable.
Children are often ruled by emotion and by a desire to be liked and fit in, which can lead to poor moral decisions. But children who are taught moral values early and regularly are more likely to develop the sense of conscience needed to make them think twice before they respond. All children will make mistakes and behave poorly at times; the important thing is to use these bad decisions as a learning opportunity.
"A child's moral growth is an ongoing process, and all kids slip up from time to time. You still have a tremendous influence on your child's behavior." Dr. Michelle Borba, author and child expert states. Allow your child to learn from mistakes and use the consequences of those errors in judgment as a chance to reinforce your values.
Remember that although your children will eventually turn to friends, especially in the early years parents are the number one model they turn to for an example of how to behave. “We might tell our children how to act in the world and how to behave, but they absorb our behavior like a sponge and usually model it,” points out Dr. Thomas Plante, Professor of Psychology at Santa Clara University. Morals are an area where there can be no compromise; make it your goal to behave in a moral fashion at all times. If you can’t do so, you certainly can’t expect your children to.
Raising a moral child in a difficult world takes some effort, but these simple methods will make it easier:
- Teach your child the morals you would like them to live by from a very young age
Use moral missteps as an opportunity for learning and reinforcing values
Be a model of moral behavior in everything you do.
Remember that morals are taught over time, and reinforced throughout a lifetime
Teaching your child good morals and values is a challenge for every parent, but this fundamental area of everyday life can be passed on from parent to child. Focus on teaching morals early and reinforcing them at every opportunity, and don’t forget to stand as an example yourself.