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'Ask the Learning Advisor -- Ideas for Raising Successful Children'

How do you teach moral values?

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[DEC. 31, 2004]  Q:  Everyone is talking about moral values these days, it seems. How do I teach my daughter good values without always lecturing her?

A: "Children have never been very good at listening to their elders," said James Baldwin. "But they have never failed to imitate them." You are the model for your child's character. Each action you take represents your values and teaches a powerful lesson to your daughter about the kind of person she should be.

Here are ways you can model some basic values for your daughter:

  • Teach generosity. Use the holiday season to get into the spirit of giving and away from the concept of getting. Together with your daughter, sort through toys and clothes she has outgrown and give them to a children's hospital or homeless shelter. Make it an annual family tradition.

  • Show respect. When you treat your child and others with love and respect, you are teaching her how she should treat others. Use kind words and a pleasant tone when you speak to her. Make it clear that you expect the same in return.

  • Teach honesty. When you leave a note after bumping another car in a parking lot, you are teaching your daughter that honesty is important even when no one is looking. If you get undercharged in a store, let the store clerk know. And be quick to praise your daughter when she displays honesty.

  • Practice perseverance. Teach her that it's OK to make mistakes. Very few things always go right the first time. But they often go right after lots of practice. Don't be too quick to take over when your daughter struggles with homework or a difficult task. Let her learn that she can succeed on her own by sticking with the task. Make sure she sees not only the finished performance, but also the hard work and discipline that made it possible.

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  • Show care for the community. Spend time helping out at a soup kitchen. The holiday season is again a great time to start this type of project. You'll teach care and concern for others.

  • Tell family stories. Take time during the holidays to look at old photographs and share stories. This is a great way to teach your daughter about her background and to pass on the important values you want to share. Don't turn your stories into lectures, though. If the story has a moral lesson, your daughter will probably pick up on it.

You sound like a caring parent. Identify the values that are important to you. If you give your daughter regular opportunities to make "the right choice" and you praise her efforts, your values will carry the day.

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For more information about helping children learn or to submit your own question to The Learning Advisor, go to http://advisor.parent-institute.com. All questions will receive a prompt answer by e-mail.

Copyright 2004, The Parent Institute.

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