Educating our children must go beyond academics. Helping children acquire and practice right moral values is critical. The well-being of a community and a nation depends on it. Holistic development of children is the mandate of parents, care-givers and teachers.
Without sound moral values, children have no basis on which to make good choices. Moral values are guideposts pointing the right direction. They help children appropriately apply what they are learning to situations of real life.
Without positive moral guidance children become self-inflated and self-absorbed individuals with a gorilla-sized attitude of entitlement. They have little regard for, nor interest in, others except for personal gain. Only solid moral values rescue such from their illusionary, self-created universe.
How Can Values Be Cultivated In Children?
Phase 1: Teach
Values are ‘seeds’ that must be sown into the minds of children. They must be taught the concept (e.g. respect) clearly so they know what is expected of them. Relevance is established as children are shown clearly how the value (e.g. respect) is applied in their real-life experience. Role play followed by discussion can help clarify relevance and context.
Phase 2: Talk
Once a value is ‘planted’, it must be nurtured. This is accomplished as a vocabulary is developed around the value. For example, as respect is introduced, children must hear and use the word, its synonyms and words related to respect often (within reason, of course) throughout succeeding days. The objective is to establish a consciousness of respect, which in turn embeds thought patterns of respect which eventually become the paradigm by which children make choices and by which they interact with one another.
Phase 3: Walk
In this phase children “walk the talk” with the help of parent, care-giver or teacher. As a child demonstrates inappropriate behavior, the following three steps help get them back on track. The focus of intervention is restorative rather than punitive.
1. Facilitate clarity.
(a) Ask leading questions that help the child identify exactly what was wrong about their behavior. The issue cannot be resolved if the child cannot identify and name the inappropriate behavior.
(b) Guide the child to understand (i.e. identify and name) what would be appropriate behavior in the given situation.
(c) Explore several appropriate behaviors and the outcome each would produce. It is important for the child to see that more than one option provides appropriate behavior. They must see that their power of choice determines the outcome.
2. Help the child own their inappropriate behavior.
As long as the child makes excuses and blames someone or something other than him/herself, the issue cannot be resolved and he/she cannot move on.
(a) Help the child admit they were wrong. e.g. “I was disrespectful when I called Amy a name that hurt her feelings.”
(b) Help the child apologize appropriately. e.g. “I’m sorry for calling you a name that hurt your feelings.” The issue is not resolved with a vague “I’m sorry.” Help the child be specific in naming the wrong.
(c) Help the offended child express forgiveness. e.g. “I forgive you, Amy.” Saying the name tags the forgiveness precisely. It releases the offender to get up from her mistake and empowers her to move forward with a new level of respect—for herself and for others.
(d) Have persons involved in the incident promise they will help each other behave appropriately. We need each other to become the persons we want to be.
3. The goal: children making values-based choices and resolving personal conflicts using values-based strategies without adult intervention.
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said it well, “We want a society where people are free to make choices, to make mistakes, to be generous and compassionate. This is what we mean by a moral society; not a society where the State is responsible for everything, and no one is responsible for the State.”
Whether by spontaneous, one-on-one mentoring or structured class/group discussion, children will embrace moral values that shape their character and conduct. They will become the kind of adults who make a difference in their community and in their nation.
7 Values That Help Children Live Wel
Of all the values (one list had 225 entries!), the following seven make a good starting point.
- Respect: proper regard for the thoughts, feelings, wishes, rights and property of others
- Honesty: sincere, genuine, truthful yet tactful, without deceit or hidden agenda
- Forgiveness: ready and willing to forgive out of understanding and compassion .
- Trust: firmly believing someone is reliable and free from suspicion and doubt
- Patience: tolerating delay, problems or interruptions without becoming annoyed or anxious.
- Gratitude: being thankful, ready to show appreciation and to return kindness.
- Love: showing understanding and compassion; ready to sacrifice for the benefit and empowerment of others.
Children groomed in these values are equipped to live well. They benefit their family, community and nation. Where children grow with these qualities of character, there is hope.