REALITY CHECK: The family is the first school of virtue.
Even in our increasingly toxic culture, parents can still have the inside track in their children’s development because parents are their children’s first and most important moral teachers. That premise only applies, though, if parents choose to use their moral influence.
Remember, children do not acquire strong character in one-time lectures, but in daily teachable moments. So take advantage of everyday moments to stretch your child’s character and there are dozens!
“You have a new friend in your classroom. How do you think he feels not knowing
anyone? What could you do to help him feel less lonely?”
“Listen to the lyrics on that CD. Do you want others to think girls should be talked
about and treated that way?”
“Was that helpful or hurtful? In our home we only do things that will build people
up – not tear them down. What will you do to make amends to your friend?”
Here are a few practices from my book, Building Moral Intelligence, that make a difference in raising moral kids. Find ways to use these moral-building principles in everyday moments with your children.
38 Parenting Practices That Nurture Moral Intelligence
- To teach kids empathy, you must show kids empathy.
- Show the impact empathy has on others so your child understands it’s important.
- If you want your child to feel for others, demand your child to feel for others.
- Provide opportunities for your child to experience different perspectives and views.
- Experiencing different perspectives helps children be able to empathize with others’ needs and views.
- Be sure your behaviors your kids watch are ones that you want them to copy.
- If you want your child to act morally, then expect moral behaviors from her.
- Talk about moral issues as they come up, so your child can hear your moral beliefs.
- Plainly explain your concerns to your child, set standards, and then stick to them.
- Catch your child acting morally by describing what she did right and why you
- To teach kids self-control, you must show kids self-control, so be a living
example of self-control.
- Refrain from always giving tangible rewards for your child’s efforts so she develops her own internal reward system.
- Your home is the best place for your child to learn how deal with stressful
situations. Don’t rob him of the opportunity to learn how.
- Gradually stretch your child’s ability to control his impulses and learn to wait.
- Treat children respectfully so that they feel respected and are therefore more likely to treat others respectfully.
- Tune up your child’s social graces and make courtesy a priority in your home.
- Do not tolerate any form of back-talk or rudeness. Stop it before it spreads.
- Supervise your child’s media consumption closely. Set clear family standards, and then stick to them!
- Explain your moral standards to the other adults in your child’s life so you can work together.
- Make sure you are a positive, affirming role model and surround your child with
people of high character.
- Take an active stand against cruelty and just plain do not allow it.
- Take time to tell and show kids how to be kind – never assume they have that
- Kids don’t learn how to be kind from a textbook, but from doing kind deeds.
- Encourage your child to lend a hand so he or she will understand the power of “doing good.”
- The best way to teach kids any virtue is not through our lectures but through our
- Become the living textbook of morality that you want your child to copy.
- Teach your child from the time he is very young that no one is better than any other person.
- Refuse to allow discriminatory remarks of any kind in your presence.
- Get in touch with your own prejudices and be willing to change them so your child
won’t learn them from you.
- Nurture in your child a sense of pride in her culture, heritage, and identity.
- Expose your child early to games, literature, and toys that represent a wide range of multicultural groups to boost her or his appreciation and acceptance for
- Encourage your child to participate in activities which promote diversity and nurture tolerance.
- If you want your child to be fair, expect your child to be fair.
- The easiest way to increase fairness is by reinforcing fair behaviors.
- Encourage your child when he encounters unfair treatment to stand up for himself and the rights of others.
- Look for opportunities in your neighborhood or community and get involved together in making the world a better place.
- Emphasize acting fairly and good sportsmanship both on and off the field.
- There is no more powerful way to boost kids’ moral intelligence than to get them
personally involved in an issue of injustice and then encourage them to take a
stand; they will learn that they can make a difference in the world.
There is no rewind button on parenting, so be intentional when it comes to building
your child’s character. Parents who raise good kids don’t do so by accident!