The article is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.
One of the hardest things parents face is teaching their children morality. Adults spend much of their lives being taught moral lessons and learning through experience, but children are at a disadvantage.
They’re simply not old enough to understand what’s right and what’s wrong in every situation, and they’re not yet able to understand the consequences they’ll face if they make a bad decision.
If we want our children to grow into respectable, responsible adults, we must teach them the importance of morality now so that they can make the right choices as they get older.
Below are several ways you can help your children learn about morality:
Be a good role model
The best way to teach kids the importance of morality is to be a good role model. This means behaving morally yourself and using moral language around your child. Your child will internalize your values, so you want to make sure you’re setting a good example for them.
If you want your kids to treat people well, show them how it’s done. If you want them to feel compassion, share it with them. If you want them to respect other people’s property, respect their privacy. If you want them to be honest, don’t lie to them.
When you live your values, your children will learn by seeing and imitating. And when they do make mistakes (as they surely will), they’ll usually be ready and willing to face the consequences and learn from their mistakes.
Since children learn by example, as a parent, you must learn to practice what you preach.
Expose them to stories that focus on moral issues
This is another great way to teach kids about morality. For example, reading fairy tales aloud will help them learn about right and wrong and the consequences of their actions. Additionally, discuss these stories with your child afterward, so they understand why certain actions are considered good or bad.
Praise them often and honestly
You should also praise your child when they behave morally. If they tell the truth or help someone without being asked, tell them what a good job they did. You can also encourage them by pointing out how proud you are of their moral behavior.
Praise your children for telling the truth, sharing their belongings with others, and helping those in need. Learn to reward their good behavior. It will encourage them to keep doing the right thing.
Explain why they should or shouldn’t do something
Telling children what they should and shouldn’t do isn’t the most effective way to get them to behave appropriately, since it doesn’t encourage critical thinking. But if you explain why they should or shouldn’t do something, they’re more likely to understand the reasoning behind your advice and apply it in other situations.
For example, when teaching your kids about stranger danger, you could tell them not to talk to strangers. But then say something like, “we don’t know if strangers can be trusted.” Kids need to understand why certain behaviors are unacceptable and how those choices can affect others.
So instead of telling them that lying is always wrong, explain that it hurts people’s feelings and makes them feel bad when they find out the truth. Or talk about how lying can ruin relationships with family members and friends who may no longer trust each other if they believe lies have been told.
Set moral guidelines
It’s never too early to talk about right and wrong. When your child is young, read her books that illustrate good behavior. As she gets older, be sure she knows what you expect from her.
Talk about ways she can show respect for others, such as sharing her toys or her time. Discuss ways she can help others through acts of kindness, such as visiting a sick relative in the hospital.
Share your values with them
Another way to teach your child about morality is by sharing your values with them. Let them know that you don’t always make the right decisions, but you do your best to learn from your mistakes and help others.
You can also explain to them why it’s important to be honest and fair, like when you tell a cashier they gave you too much change, or give credit where it’s due.
A great way of teaching morality to your kids by example is by volunteering with them. For example, you can go to a soup kitchen or participate in a food drive together. When you see people in need, it’ll encourage your child to be more generous and kind.
The bottom line
In conclusion, teaching kids about morality is a huge responsibility. Your children will look up to you and make their decisions based on what you teach them. Being a parent, therefore, means you need to be a role model for your child’s moral development.
When you teach your children moral values, you give them an advantage in life, as they will be more likely to choose right over wrong. Moral values are important to a child’s development, since not only do they encourage good behavior, but they also teach children how to get along with others, including their siblings and friends. Visit https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/morality/ to learn more about the benefits of morality for mental health and wellbeing.