We should foster children’s empathy and responsibility for others because it’s right and because they’ll be happier and more successful. They’ll always have better relationships, which are essential to happiness. Empathic, socially aware children are better collaborators, which is vital in today’s business.
Below are guidelines for developing loving, courteous, and ethical children, along with implementation methods. Research and decades of work by our organizations with American families support these guidelines.
1. Nurture your kids.
Treating children well teaches them respect. Love bonds our kids to us. That attachment makes them more open to our ideals and teaching.
Loving our children includes:
- Meeting their physical and emotional needs.
- Providing a stable and secure family environment.
- Showing affection.
- Respecting their personalities.
- Taking a genuine interest in their lives.
- Talking about essential topics.
- Affirming their efforts and achievements.
Togetherness. Schedule emotional time with your kids. Some parents and caregivers achieve this by reading together at night. Some organize weekly one-on-one time with their kids. For instance, spend one Saturday afternoon a month with each child doing something you enjoy.
Meaningful talk. When you’re with your child, ask each other questions about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. What was the best part of your day? The hardest?
“What did you do well today?”
“What was pleasant someone done for you today? What’s wonderful you did?”
“What did you learn today—in school or out?”
2. Model morality
Children learn ethical beliefs and behaviors through witnessing our activities and the actions of other adults they respect. Our efforts will influence children.
Pay particular attention to whether you are practicing honesty, justice, caring for yourself, and modeling skills like successfully solving conflicts peacefully and handling anger and other unpleasant emotions. However, nobody is perfect. That’s why we should acknowledge and work on our mistakes to teach children humility, self-awareness, and honesty. We must also identify obstacles to our care. Exhausted or stressed? Does our child sometimes drive us crazy? Remember that children will only emulate us if they trust and respect us. Adults can assess if their children respect them, why, and how to fix the connection.
Service. Regularly volunteer or demonstrate other community contributions. Try it with your child.
Integrity. When you make a mistake that impacts your child, explain why you made it, apologize, and explain how you’ll avoid it next time.
Communicate. Reflect and talk to trusted individuals when struggling to be kind or fair.
Self-care. Whether it’s spending time with a friend, going for a walk, praying, or meditating, try to reduce your tension and be more attentive and caring with others.
3. Prioritize helping others and uphold ethical standards
Parents and caregivers must tell youngsters that caring for others is as vital as their enjoyment. Most parents and caregivers say caring is their top priority, but kids don’t always hear it.
Prioritizing care means holding children to high ethical standards, such as following their promises, doing the right thing even when it’s hard, standing up for fairness and justice, and being courteous even if it makes them unhappy or their peers aren’t.
Consider your daily messaging to kids about caring. Instead of telling youngsters, “The most important thing is that you’re happy,” say, “The most essential thing is that you’re nice and happy.”
Talk to other vital adults about your kids with care. Ask instructors and coaches about your children’s community involvement and academic performance.
Help youngsters “figure it out.” Before letting your child quit a sports team, band, or friendship, urge them to work through problems and consider their duties.
4. Teach kids gratitude and kindness
Children need to practice gratitude and care for others. Studies demonstrate that grateful people are happier, healthier, more charitable, empathetic, and forgiving.
Being grateful and kind is like playing a sport or instrument. The daily repetition and rising obstacles make caring and appreciation second nature and improve children’s caregiving capacities. Family gatherings allow kids to practice solving family issues like sibling fights, school troubles, and mealtime issues. Although we must always uphold principles like caring and fairness, we may make our house democratic by inviting our children to share their opinions and listen to ours. Involving children in family improvement plans teaches perspective-taking and problem-solving and gives them an authentic responsibility: co-creating a happy family.
Duties. Expect kids to help with chores and siblings but only praise rare acts of kindness. Routine activities that are anticipated but not rewarded are more likely to become habitual.
Prioritize caring and justice. Start conversations with children about caring and unkind acts they see in their daily lives or on television, as well as fairness and injustice they may see or hear about in the news, such as a person standing up for a cause or sexism or racism. Ask them what they think and explain why you think these behaviors are compassionate or indifferent, just or unjust.
Expressing thanks. Consider expressing thankfulness regularly at dinnertime, bedtime, in the vehicle, or on the train. Encourage kids to thank family, teachers, and others.
5. Expand your child’s circle of concern
Most kids care about their relatives and friends. Our goal is to teach students to care about others beyond their circle, such as a new student, a non-native speaker, the school custodian, or a foreigner.
Children should learn to zoom in and listen to their immediate circle and zoom out to see the larger picture and consider the variety of people they interact with daily. Children also need to evaluate how their decisions affect a community. Breaking school regulations can encourage others to do so. Children should also care about other cultures and communities in this globalized society.
Challenged kids. Encourage children to examine the opinions and feelings of vulnerable people like new students or children with family issues. Give kids simple actions like soothing a ridiculed classmate or reaching out to a new student.
Zooming out. Use newspaper or TV stories to start dialogues with children about other people’s tragedies and challenges or simply the varied experiences of youngsters in another country or town.
Listening. Encourage your youngster to listen to others, especially those who are unfamiliar or difficult to grasp.
6. Promote children’s abilities to be ethical thinkers and positive change-makers in their communities
Children naturally ask ethical questions, which can help them understand justice, what they owe others, and how to handle competing loyalties. Children are also often interested in adopting leadership positions to improve their communities. They aim to help. For example, many of the most effective programs to foster care and respect and eradicate bullying and cruelty have been created by children and teens.
Listening to and helping youngsters think through ethical challenges like, “Should I invite a new neighbor to my birthday party when my best buddy doesn’t like her?” can help kids become moral thinkers and leaders. You may also help your kids oppose injustice and develop their communities.
Acting. Encourage youngsters to take action against situations that affect them, such as cyberbullying or unsafe street corners.
Joining. Provide an opportunity for youngsters to join causes, whether it’s reducing homelessness, promoting girls’ education in developing countries, raising awareness of injured animals, or anything else that interests them.
Using. Encourage youngsters to “do with” others to solve communal issues.
Brainstorming with your child. Discuss TV ethical dilemmas or give kids ethical dilemmas to solve at mealtimes or other times. When a classmate gossips about another kid, what should they do? When they witness exam cheating or theft? When they do something wrong and are afraid to tell their parents or caregivers?
7. Help kids control their emotions
Anger, humiliation, envy, and other destructive emotions can override caring for others.
We may teach youngsters that all feelings are okay, but some ways of handling them are not. Children require help managing their emotions.
Feelings. Name challenging emotions like frustration, sadness, and anger and encourage them to talk about them.
Three steps to self-control. A simple technique to encourage youngsters to manage their moods is to practice three straightforward efforts: Halt, take a deep breath through the nose, exhale through the mouth, and count to five. Try it with a calm youngster.
When she gets agitated, remind her and practice the steps together.
Peacemaking. Practice with your youngster how to overcome conflicts. Consider a disagreement you or your child witnessed or experienced that turned out badly, and role-play several methods of responding. Try to achieve mutual understanding—listening to and paraphrasing each other’s feelings until both people feel understood. Talk to your youngster about how you’re handling challenging emotions if they’re worried.
Clear limitations. Set limits with power. Explain how your restrictions are reasonable and loving for your child.
Raising a caring, polite, ethical child has always been difficult. But it’s something all of us can do. No job is more important or fulfilling.