Parenthood is often a complete joy. You bring this little being into the world, and you get to watch as he or she grows from a dependent being into a well-rounded individual, contributing in some meaningful way to your family and society as a whole. But that process can also be terrifying. If you stop and consider how much power you have over that process you might just curl up in the corner. Most new parents spend months watching their children sleep, just to make sure they are still breathing. Knowing that you have a great deal of say into what sort of person your child becomes? That’s a huge responsibility. But that’s the reality of being a parent. It is up to you to raise your child with a strong sense of morals and ethics, and an understanding of right and wrong and how to treat people that will help him fulfill that promise you saw in his eyes from the first day of his life. These lessons must be ongoing, and as long as you maintain that sort of consistency you’ll be fine. Here are five tips to help you raise moral and ethical children.
The most important tip is completely within your control, and that is to make sure you are setting a proper example. Ever notice how you can tell your child to do something a million times and he will refuse, but as soon as he sees you doing it he gets right into the flow? Kids learn from observing others and mimicking their behavior, not from being told what to do. So if you have a strong sense of morals and ethics and you make sure you live by them on a daily basis, your kids will pick up on that. Just make sure your child is there to see you positively contributing to society, helping others in need, being generous, honest and dependable. The more he sees you living by that elevated standard, the more he will take it on for himself.
When kids don’t understand something they often get frustrated. So help your child learn to identify his emotions. Morals develop out of a sense of empathy for others, putting yourself in their shoes and sensing what the ‘right’ thing to do is. But if your child doesn’t understand his own emotions he won’t be able to recognize those emotions in others. When your child expresses an emotion talk it out with him. Once he can express and identify anger, sadness, happiness, fear and all the rest, he’ll understand the appropriate reaction.
It’s all too easy to get caught up in discipline, but providing praise when your child does something well is much more impactful. The carrot will always beat the stick when it comes down to generating moral and ethical behavior. In the end your child wants to please you, to be looked at as good and special in your eyes. So make sure that you emphasize the great things he does as much, if not more than the negative things you are looking to curtail. When he does good things and you reinforce them he will feel even better about it, which will encourage him to work for that feedback in the future.
It can be tempting to force your child to do what you want him to, because “you’re the parent and you know better”. At this point you certainly do, but if your child doesn’t feel you respect him it will be very difficult to teach morals. The lynchpin of morality is respect for your fellow man, and if you cannot respect your child, he will feel it is okay not to respect others. So never be demeaning in your discipline, or in how you talk about other people. Regardless of how angry you get, do not allow yourself to be mean to others in front of him. And never order your child to do something without an explanation. It’s the harder road for sure, but you’ll be so proud of the results as your child grows into the type of person who commands respect, from himself and from all others.
Much of this can come out of logic and communication, but nurturing cannot be forgotten. The more you show your child love and affection, the stronger his morality will develop as he grows. It’s all about caring for others, which is incredibly difficult to do if you don’t feel cared for yourself. If you make sure your child always knows he is loved and feels secure and safe within the family, he will become the type of person who nurtures others. That cannot be taught, and comes entirely out of your treatment of him. Remember that love and affection even in the most difficult of times and you will be rewarded for it.