How to Teach Children Morals & Ethics

“Don’t you know you shouldn’t lie!?!” you chastise your child after discovering that he told his grandmother a fib to get her to buy him some ice cream. While it may seem that children should be born already knowing basic morals rules -- like do not lie -- this isn’t the case. Your child enters the world a moldable ball of clay, unaware of anything, even basic moral rules and values. Prepare your child to make the right choices in the future by teaching him the morals and ethics you live by and encouraging him to embody the same tenants.

  1. Model values and ethics. If your child sees you lie, she won’t see lying as bad, states Becky Sweat for “The Good News” magazine. Start teaching your child what is and is not right by faithfully living by these values and ethics yourself.

  1. Encourage empathy. The first step to developing values is becoming empathetic, state child rearing experts William and Martha Sears on their website Prompt your child to think about how others are feeling. For example, if your child sees a peer crying on the playground, talk to her about it, discussing why she might be sad.

  1. Discuss everyday experiences, referring specifically to moral lessons these events can teach, says Sweat. If you are watching the news and see a segment that begs a moral question, take advantage of this opportunity. Ask your child what she would do in that situation and discuss her response, guiding her in the moral direction.

  1. Celebrate demonstrations of morals and ethics. If your child tells you the truth even though telling the truth is difficult, applaud her honesty, suggests Sally Marshall for “Parents Magazine.” By celebrating her demonstrations of morals and values, you positively reinforce such behavior.

  1. Limit the number of amoral examples your child sees, warn Sears and Sears. Just like children will mimic the behavior of positive role models, they can also copy negative behavior. Particularly if your child seems to have difficulty following a moral path, taking these amoral examples out of the equation could help.

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