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Bringing Up Children Who Value Ethics

written by: AngelicaMD • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 8/2/2012

Raising children is not just about looking after their physical well being and education or keeping them happy all the time. Bringing up healthy and happy children also involves teaching them ethics for them to grow up with integrity. Here are some principles in raising upright children.

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    Challenges of Raising Children

    Family Reading Hour 

    It is not easy to bring up children while juggling career, home life, community life and other responsibilities. Often times parents feel inadequate in being able to provide children with their material needs or guilty about not being able to spend time with them. Another challenge is how to raise them into people who value ethics, not only as productive members of society, but as citizens who have moral integrity. Obviously these are things that cannot be easily learned from books or left to the responsibility of school teachers but must be deeply rooted in the home environment as the children grow.

    Although there has been a lot of research and published articles about parenting styles and techniques on how to raise children with character, many of them agree on common points like those pointed out by Thomas Lickona, developmental psychologist and professor of education at the State University of New York at Cortland.

    According to him there are ten principles in raising children of character, from his book Character Matters: How to Help Our Children Develop Good Judgment, Integrity, and Other Essential Virtues (New York: Touchstone, 2004). They are summarized below.

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    Ways to Instill Values in Children

    Emphasize Character Development character matters 

    Parents must not only provide for their kids' physical needs or simply satisfy their wants to keep them happy. Raising children with integrity should be a high priority, too. Parents envision their children becoming healthy and beautiful someday, but they also want to have kids who have character, people who are responsible, can exercise good judgment and who value ethics.

    Practice an Authoritative Parenting Style

    Parents must always exercise moral authority that children should be able to respect. This is not the same as being an authoritarian who exercises a commanding style of parenting with lots of threats and little reasoning. Authoritative parents correct misbehavior and disrespect with reason and love, and their children feel that after being corrected they have been treated fairly and with love. It is far from being permissive or allowing kids to talk back disrespectfully and having things done their way even if wrong.

    An authoritative parenting style helps raise kids into adults who have respect for authority and rules.

    Communicate and Express Your Love

    There are many ways to love children, and buying them expensive things or going on luxurious vacations are not necessarily among them. To love means to show you care for what they think and feel and this can be done by giving them enough time to spend together and communicating effectively with them, even if it entails some self sacrifice.

    Some ways of manifesting love and fostering communication include eating family meals together (at least once a day). Observing certain family traditions of getting together also shows how we value each others’ presence even if we have to sacrifice time away from work.

    When children feel loved they can put their trust in you and seek your guidance rather than look for the company and approval of peers.

    Teach by Being a Good Example

    The best way to teach moral uprightness to children is to do what you preach. Parents cannot be credible teachers of integrity if their own characters do not show truthfulness, kindness, faithfulness, modesty, gentleness, fairness and all other values they wish to impart.

    It is not rare for people to comment on a child’s consistent good behavior with a question that goes, “Who are his parents?"

    Supervise the Moral Environment

    Aside from parents being good examples for their children to emulate, surrounding them with an environment of moral uprightness free of bad TV shows, movies, indecent reading materials, etc. will prevent their good values from being diluted with wrong ideas. As part of an authoritative parenting style, parents must monitor their children’s entertainment, activities, friends and behavior and explain to them any objections they have to any of these.

    Teach Right from Wrong

    Outright teaching using adequate reasoning and proper communication helps children learn what is right from wrong. With a good background on what behaviors are acceptable and not, children will be able to develop reliable decision making skills which they will use later in life.

    Discipline with Reason

    Disciplining wisely means being clear and firm without being harsh, such that the child understands that what he did that was wrong, why it is wrong, and how he can make up for it.

    Handle Conflicts Fairly

    Conflicts are inevitable, and they often arise from miscommunication. To solve them fairly, parents and children must be able to achieve mutual understanding and arrive at a solution that is agreed upon fairly. Results must be evaluated after some time, to see if the agreed-upon solution is working.

    Encourage Good Acts

    To raise children who value ethics they must be given the opportunity to practice good acts which will later become habits, which will later become virtues that will ultimately form his character. This can be done by allowing them to do chores to practice responsibility, letting them do volunteer work in the community to practice kindness, etc.

    Promote Spiritual Growth

    For many people spirituality gives a higher meaning to life and a supreme reason for leading a moral life. Fostering spiritual development by encouraging prayer and meditation, reading spiritual books and attending religious activities often helps in promoting altruism and in preventing succumbing to peer pressure when it comes to sex, alcohol and drugs.

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    Teach Right from Wrong

    Outright teaching using adequate reasoning and proper communication helps children learn what is right from wrong. With a good background on what behaviors are acceptable and not, children will be able to develop reliable decision making skills which they will use later in life.

    Discipline with Reason

    Disciplining wisely means being clear and firm without being harsh, such that the child understands that what he did that was wrong, why it is wrong, and how he can make up for it.

    Handle Conflicts Fairly

    Conflicts are inevitable, and they often arise from miscommunication. To solve them fairly, parents and children must be able to achieve mutual understanding and arrive at a solution that is agreed upon fairly. Results must be evaluated after some time, to see if the agreed-upon solution is working.

    Encourage Good Acts

    To raise children who value ethics they must be given the opportunity to practice good acts which will later become habits, which will later become virtues that will ultimately form his character. This can be done by allowing them to do chores to practice responsibility, letting them do volunteer work in the community to practice kindness, etc.

    Promote Spiritual Growth

    For many people spirituality gives a higher meaning to life and a supreme reason for leading a moral life. Fostering spiritual development by encouraging prayer and meditation, reading spiritual books and attending religious activities often helps in promoting altruism and in preventing succumbing to peer pressure when it comes to sex, alcohol and drugs.

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