Teaching children values such as honesty, respect, compassion and responsibility can start at a young age. Parents and teachers alike have the ability to convey messages to children every day regarding appropriate behaviors and how to live ethically. Including children in daily activities, routines and specific lessons pertaining to ethical living can increase the overall morality of their upbringing.
Teach Through Example
Children learn most through watching, hearing and participating in what goes on in their environment. Maintain awareness of your own behaviors and the example you set for children, whether your own or your students. The priorities and principles that you instill in your own daily life are being passed on to your child simply through unconscious integration. If you prioritize family time, following through with obligations and community responsibility in your own life, children are likely to follow in your footsteps. Cultivating an attitude based on mutual respect and compassion for others will be translated to children through your own actions.
Set Clear Expectations
Children respond well to having concise and consistent expectations incorporated in their environment. By setting limits and structuring children's daily activities in a predictable way, you can more easily instill positive values. Establish routines, set boundaries and employ logical consequences for behaviors and choices. Teach children that their choices reflect on personal character. Always maintain consistency with expectations and follow through with uniform consequences. This will help children develop a more keen awareness of appropriate behaviors and the importance of acting in an ethical manner. Be sure to utilize similar consequences for all children in the group, whether siblings or classmates.
Discuss Moral Issues
Include children in discussions regarding rules and expectations. Explain why certain rules are in place and how these rules help establish a more harmonious way of life. Allow children -- whether your own or your students -- to help develop home and classroom rules based on the needs of the family or class. Talk with children about the effects of making respectful, honorable choices. Choose books and activities that demonstrate the value of acting ethically. Parents can explore the world of Alexander's Amazing Adventures on the Values Parenting website with children as a beneficial and interactive way to teach about essential ethical principles. Teachers can access helpful curriculum material through the GroundSpark website.
Keep Children Involved
Involve children in regularly occurring conversations based on making positive decisions and how decisions affect ourselves and others. Encourage children to participate in home and school activities that emphasize cooperation and helpfulness. Let your child help prepare meals, sort the recycling and fold the laundry. These daily activities impart valuable life lessons about contribution and self-sufficiency. Teachers can motivate their students to sign up for the food drive at school and to play a role in community service events. Remember that through the example, encouragement and reinforcement of their parents and teachers, children can grow up to be the next generation of positive role models.
- U.S. Department of Education: How Can We Help Children Learn about Character? Helping Your Child Become a Responsible Citizen
- Teaching Children to Care: Management in the Responsive Classroom
- Values Parenting: Teaching Values
- The University of Alabama Parenting Assistance Line: Consistency: The Key to Well-Behaved Children
- Teaching Tolerance: Teacher Authority and Moral Education
- GroundSpark: The Repsect for All Project
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images