Of all the roles in parenting, no part is as important as raising children with good values. As parents, we may hope our children are good athletes, achieve in school, are artistically talented, or good looking, but nothing is as important as their moral behavior. If our children are not good, honest, self-disciplined, kind, hard-working people, then their humanity is diminished. Parents need to respect children and require respect in return. Discipline must be respectful and model the restraint, gentleness, and fairness we expect of our children.
As children get older, we need to ask for and consider their opinions when setting rules and consequences. These past ten years might as well go down in history as the “Decade of Moral Erosion. ” Wall Street “leaders,” politicians, celebrities, and even the clergy and their parade of unethical acts were continual news stories. The Internet became scarier;TV featured more casual sex and vulgarity; political and corporate scandals became raunchier and more public; video games became even cruder; music lyrics were ruder; movies were often steamier and more violent.
And if that isn’t enough, data shows that those ethical infractions are impacting the kids. Their social scene is even meaner and more aggressive. Bullying has not only intensified but is also no longer limited to playgrounds. Cyberbullying is the hot new craze. According to Good Kids, Tough Choices, “A Boys and Girls Club of America survey of 46,000 teens confirmed by their own reports that peer pressure is fiercer. Drinking, shoplifting, cheating, lying, stealing, and sexual promiscuity have not only increased but are also hitting our kids at younger ages” (Rushworth, 2010).
These really are scary times to raise kids. We need to nurture a solid moral core that will guide our kids to stand up for their beliefs and act right even without us. Children can learn the core virtues and skills of strong character and moral courage even when they are toddlers. The following characteristics help promote moral development: •honest and trustworthy •faithful and loyal •hard-working, responsible, and self-disciplined •kind, with concern for their fellow human beings •independent, able to resist the pressure of the crowd •generous, giving, and selfless loving, empathetic, sensitive, and tolerant •friendly, helpful, cheerful, and gentle •concerned for justice, and respectful of legitimate authority, rules, and laws •respectful of themselves and the rights of others •respectful of life, property, nature, elders, and parents •courteous, polite, having good manners •fair in work and play •merciful and forgiving, understanding the futility of holding a grudge •service oriented, willing to contribute to family, friends, community, country, religious organizations, and school •courageous •peaceful, calm, and serene
Children develop morality slowly, and in stages. These stages have their foundation in a secure attachment and basic trust, beginning in the preschool years and continuing to develop even in the adult years. Each stage has its own theory and idea of what is good and right and different reasons why people should be good. Each stage brings a person closer to mature moral development. Treating kids with respect means treating them like persons, being fair with them, relating to them at their level, and making some allowances for the immaturity of their developmental stage.
It means giving kids the feeling that you’re trying to consider their point of view. Since morality is a two-way street, we can require respect in return from our children. We can insist on courtesy and expect consideration. We can require in firm, unmistakable ways, the special respect that is due us as parents and caretakers and the simple respect that is due every human being. One of the surest ways to help our children turn their moral reasoning into positive moral behavior is to teach by example. Teaching kids respect by respecting them is certainly one way to teach by example.
But teaching by example goes beyond how we treat our children. It has to do with how we treat others as adults, how we treat and talk about others outside the family. It has to do with how we lead our lives. Think back to how your own parents influenced your moral development by the examples they set. We teach respect for all persons by the examples we set. Even though it is extremely important to teach by example, it is not enough. Children are surrounded by bad examples. They need our words as well as our actions. Parents with clearly identified moral convictions are more likely to raise ood kids. Because their kids know what their parents stand for and why they do, their kids are more likely to adopt their parents’ beliefs. They need to see us leading good lives, but they also need to know why we do it. One great question to ask yourself each day is: “If I were the only example my child had to learn moral habits, what did she learn today from watching me? ” The answer can be quite revealing. By watching your choices and hearing your casual comments, kids learn our moral standards: For example do you: •eat a “sample” from a store’s candy bin in front of your child without paying? buy a ticket for a “child under twelve” even though your child is older? •drive faster than the speed limit with your child as a passenger? •tell your child to say you’re not there when your boss calls? •do the majority of your child’s work on a school project, but then have him sign his name? Children’s books can be helpful in illustrating values. Moving stories that are told through television shows or movies can also open the conversation with children about morality. Worship, study, and celebration of your religious faith together as a family also can promote moral development.
Speaking frequently to your child about values is called “Direct Moral Teaching. ” Parents who raise ethical kids use it often. So look for moral issues and talk about them as they come up- from TV shows and news events to situations at home, school, and friends. Tell your kids how you feel about the issue and why. Share examples of morally courageous heroes such as Rosa Parks, Pee Wee Reese, Harriet Tubman, Abe Lincoln. There are wonderful books and videos in your local library that you can also share with your child.
Cut out articles in the newspaper and use them as “Hero Reports” at the dinner hour with your kids each day. Stand up for your beliefs whenever you feel a major value is jeopardized. Your child needs to see and hear about moral courage so he has an example to copy. It is not enough to set a good example and tell children what we think, important as those things are. We also have to teach them to think for themselves. One father describes how his parents did that: “Whenever I did something wrong, my parents didn’t just demand that I stop my behavior.
Instead, they almost always asked, ‘How would you feel if someone did that to you? ‘ That gave me a chance to reflect on whatever I did and how I’d like to have it done to me. ” (McGowan, 2007) There are two very important moral lessons here. First, take the time to think. Second, put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Neither of those things comes naturally to children. We can help their moral development by giving them constant encouragement to stop and think and to take the viewpoint of others into consideration.
Children who think about and discuss moral issues make better headway through the stages of moral reasoning than children who don’t. Have your children complete chores and jobs around the house, take responsibility for their own homework, or take care of a younger sister or brother, an ill family member, or animals. Volunteering, service projects, and giving to a charity provide an opportunity to give of self through responsible action. Children need limits with independence, roots, and wings. Finding the balance can be tricky. Too much parental control can lead children to rebel and make poor choices just to get some freedom.
Too much freedom leads to children feeling overwhelmed – having too much power before they are ready for it. With an overabundance of freedom, children may get the idea that parents don’t really care what they do or what kind of person they become. According to Parenting Beyond Belief, “Parental love helps a child take in parental values and rules. Parents who spend quality and quantity time with their children as well as love them abundantly have children who have higher levels of moral development. ” (McGowan, 2007) Kids who stick up for others are kids who feel for others.
Empathy is what motivates that feeling, halts cruel behavior and urges kids to take a stand. New research also shows empathy is what activates our conscience. A close family gives children people to identify with, examples to learn from, values and traditions to uphold, and a support system to turn to in times of need. When children feel connected to the family, they’ve got a rudder that helps them hold to a course of responsible conduct in the face of pressure from peers. The truth is that it takes real moral strength to go against peer pressure and to stick up for your beliefs.
So teach your child assertive skills so he can take the right kind of stand whenever he’s confronted with a moral dilemma. (Rushworth, 2010). Here are three ways to boost moral courage: •Teach assertive posture. Teach your kid to stand up for his beliefs by using confident, assertive posture. Stand tall with feet slightly apart, head held high, and look the person straight in the eye. •Say no firmly. Stress that he must say his beliefs using a friendly, but determined voice. Then don’t give in. His job is not to try changing the other person’s mind, but to ollow his beliefs. •Tell reasons why. Ask your child to give the person the reason for his stand. It helps strengthen his conviction: “Stop bullying him; it’s cruel. ” Or “No, it’s illegal and wrong. ” Repeating the belief several times boosts assertiveness and helps your child not back down from his stand. (Rushworth, 2010). Keep in mind that your child’s moral growth is an ongoing process that will span the course of her lifetime. The moral knowledge, beliefs, and habits you instill in her now will become the foundation she’ll use forever.
So savor this time with your child and use it wisely, for although your child has the potential to achieve moral goodness, it is far from guaranteed. It must be nurtured, influenced, modeled, and taught. Doing so will be your greatest legacy for your child and the best hope that she can rise to the occasion and demonstrate moral courage whenever it may be needed.
References Crosser, S. (n. d. ). Emerging morality: how children think about right and wrong. Earlychildhood News, Retrieved from http://www. earlychildhoodnews. com/earlychildhood/article_view. aspx? ArticleID=118 McGowan, D. (2007). Parenting beyond belief: on raising ethical, caring kids without religion . New York: AMACOM. Raven, R. (n. d. ). How to teach morality to children. Retrieved from http://www. ehow. com/how_2306308_teach-morality-children. html Rushworth, K. (2010). Good kids, tough choices: how parents can help their children do the right thing. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Sears, DR. (2000, December 03). Morals and manners. Retrieved from http://www. askdrsears. com/html/6/t120100. asp Six tips for teaching morals to children. (n. d. ). Retrieved from http://www. tutorfi. com/Discipline&ParentingTechniques/teachingmoralstoch