How Parents Can Help Moral Development in Children

Instill values in your children which you deem important while they are young. Parents and caregivers play an important role in teaching children empathy and ethics, so the lessons you are teaching now will have an effect throughout your kids’ lives. Give your children the tools and guidance they need to take responsibility for their actions and lead a moral life.

Rules and Teaching Opportunities

Set clear rules for your children in regards to the values you deem important. Explain your reasons behind the rules so your kids understand why some actions -- such as lying and stealing -- are wrong. Explain the consequences that will be implemented if any of the rules are broken. Look for opportunities to teach your kids lessons about being moral. When your child exhibits unacceptable behavior, explain why his behavior is wrong. For example, if your child makes fun of another kid, talk about the feelings of the child being ridiculed.

Lead by Example

Young minds are impressionable, so it’s important to lead by example. Treat your children and other people with kindness and respect. Show your children how to live life with good morals as their guidance. David Popenoe, Ph.D., a Professor of Psychology at Rutgers University, suggests that your values become part of your child – especially during the first six years. Children follow the examples set by their parents – even when their behavior is bad.


Children are faced with situations daily where they must make moral or immoral choices. Positive reinforcement goes a long way. Recognize your child’s good behavior with praise. If you see her sharing a toy or practicing good manners, thank her for her kind actions. Say things such as, “I’m proud of you for sharing your toys,” or “Thank you for holding the door open for me. You’re very kind.” Positive reinforcement reminds children that their good behavior is valued.


Work side by side with your children to teach them the importance of volunteering. Volunteering teaches kids about giving back to their community or helping specific causes to make the world a better place. Volunteering also teaches children about making and following through with commitments. Choose a volunteer opportunity that aligns with your child’s interests. There are a variety of kid-friendly opportunities for volunteering such as park clean-ups, walking dogs at animal shelters or feeding the homeless at shelters.

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