Anyone who has had children, who has babysat children or who knows other people who have had children can tell you that kids aren’t born knowing right from wrong. Sure, babies can be very sweet and loving, but they can also be very selfish and self-centered too. At one, they are adorable enough to get away with it, but once they start to reach a few years old, suddenly those selfish and self-centered behaviors aren’t so adorable anymore.
Since children aren’t born already knowing good morals and values, that means it is your job to teach them. After all, society certainly isn’t going to do a good job of teaching your kids the right values for you. Not sure where to begin? Here are six ways to teach your children good values.
1. Model Good Values Yourself
Begin the process by modeling good values yourself. After all, your children learn how to feel, think, and behave by watching you. I can recall more than one occasion from my own childhood when I wasn’t sure what to do, so I thought about what my dad would do, and I did that. I have seen my son watch me as well. Don’t think you will fool your children by acting one way and saying another. They will catch on.
2. Talk About What and Why
While modeling good values is essential, showing alone isn’t enough. You also need to explain what you are doing and why, otherwise your children might not make the connection. Starting conversations is a great way to help your children think through the issues and their actions. It also helps them make broad rules that will help them in a variety of situations, not just the ones you have modeled.
3. Share Your Own Experiences
Don’t feel that just because your past is less than glamorous means that you don’t have a right to instruct your children to behave differently. As a parent, your job isn’t to be perfect, and it’s more than okay if you aren’t. Talk about your past experiences in a way that is age-appropriate, and let your kids hear about the consequences that come from bad choices. Let them know you would choose differently if you had to do it again.
4. Let Them Make Mistakes
No one expects you to be perfect, and no one expects your kids to be perfect either. Expect that they WILL make mistakes sometimes. That’s how they learn. I was a really good kid growing up, and even I did some questionable things that I knew my parents wouldn’t approve of. Try to avoid seeing these mistakes as outright defiance (unless they are), but as learning opportunities that your kids can grow from.
5. Help Them Make Amends
It isn’t the mistakes themselves that your children will learn from but the consequences that happen afterwards, so don’t be afraid to give them. Teach your children to admit when they fail (and do so yourself) and to humbly accept the appropriate consequences. Let them know that you aren’t punishing them just to be mean, but to help instruct them and guide them into making the best decisions. The consequences will vary depending on the offense, but choose something meaningful and appropriate.
6. Monitor Their Influences
Lastly, you need to understand that it doesn’t matter how great of a job you do teaching your children proper Christian morals and values, the world will try to undermine you. TV shows are full of people making the wrong decisions, and your children’s friends may not have been taught the same values that your children have been. While you don’t want to keep your children in a bubble, be careful about what your children are allowed to be exposed to, and be sure to discuss any and all situations, whether they adhere to your values or not. Your children look up to you for guidance, and it is your job to give it. Don’t let them down.
While you can’t ensure that your child will always make the right decisions when they are out of your sight, using these six tips will help you lay the foundation that the whole rest of their life will be built on. Sure, they will mess up at times, but ultimately they should grow up to be wonderful people you can be proud to call your children.
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