The old saying “children are like a sponge” is so true when it comes to teaching kids to be kind.
Kids learn ethical values by watching the actions of adults they respect.
They also learn values by thinking about ethical dilemmas with adults, such as “Should I invite my next-door neighbour to my birthday party even though my best friend really doesn’t like her?”
Parents as role models
Of course, being a positive role model and mentor means that our children need to see us putting our own values of honesty, fairness, and care into practice ourselves.
No one can be perfect all the time and it’s just as important to acknowledge our mistakes and flaws as it is to act with integrity.
When grown-ups are not afraid to admit their failings and strive to do better, they not only build their kids’ respect and trust but also demonstrate resilience and the capacity to bounce back from failure.
Ideas for teaching values to your kids
Regular involvement and service in the community is a powerful way to model caring for others to your children. This might be an organised activity, or it could be something as simple as a monthly clean-up at your local park, beach, or playground.
The family dinner table is a great place to have conversations about ethical dilemmas. Give your child an ethical dilemma at dinner or ask your child about dilemmas they’ve faced. Hypothetical questions like this “What will you do?’ game could give you a start.
Ethical Dilemma Scenarios for Kids
Dad has asked you to clean up your toys, but you’re having fun. You don’t want to stop playing. Besides, the room was already messy, and you don’t feel like cleaning up. What will you do?
You’re playing with another child who is younger than you and has a toy you want to play with. You could just take the toy if you wanted to. You could swap it with the toy you have. The other child might cry, but maybe you won’t get in trouble if you pretend you didn’t do anything. No one is looking now. What will you do?
Your friends start teasing an unpopular kid, taking his things, and calling him names. If you stick up for him, the group could turn on you. You start to slip away, but someone throws the boy’s backpack to you. What will you do?
You’re playing with two good friends. They both want to be your best friend. You think you like one friend better than the other. That friend says, “Let’s go play by ourselves.” You know your other friend’s feelings will be hurt if she’s left out. What will you do?
You have one exam question left to answer and time is running out. You’ve studied hard and you know the material, but you just can’t remember the answer. You can see the work of the person sitting next to you and you could copy their answer without the teacher knowing. What will you do?
Practice makes perfect
The more practice your children have in solving ethical problems in the safety and security of your home, the more likely they are to put those decision-making skills into play in the real world.
Children benefit from ‘rehearsing’ problem-solving processes at home, so before the need to make a tricky decision on the run, give your kids lots of practice so that they can learn to make good choices that are aligned with your family values.
Need help to support your child’s behaviour choices?
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