WHAT ARE MORAL VALUES?
People with moral values have a clear sense of right and wrong. Their moral code is not based on how they feel at the moment. Rather, it is founded on a firm set of principles that act as a guide for conduct—even when others are not watching.
WHY ARE MORAL VALUES IMPORTANT?
Children are bombarded with distorted messages about morals, whether from the people they go to school with, the music they listen to, or the movies and TV shows they watch. Such influences can challenge their beliefs about what is right and what is wrong.
That is especially true during the teen years. By that time, says the book Beyond the Big Talk, they “need to understand the intense peer and media pressures to be popular and accepted, and they need to learn to make decisions consistent with their own values and choices, even if that means going against their friends.” Clearly, training needs to begin before adolescence.
HOW TO TEACH MORAL VALUES
Establish a moral code.
BIBLE PRINCIPLE: “Mature people . . . have their powers of discernment trained to distinguish both right and wrong.”—Hebrews 5:14.
Build a moral vocabulary. Point to everyday situations and highlight contrasts: “This is honest; that is dishonest.” “This is loyal; that is disloyal.” “This is kind; that is unkind.” In time, your child will connect moral values with actions.
Explain the reasons for your moral code. For example, ask questions such as: Why is honesty the best policy? How can lying damage friendships? Why is stealing wrong? Appeal to your child’s developing conscience and sense of logic.
Emphasize the benefits of adhering to good morals. You could say: “If you are honest, others will trust you” or “If you are kind, people will like being around you.”
Make your moral code part of your family identity.
BIBLE PRINCIPLE: “Keep proving what you yourselves are.”—2 Corinthians 13:5.
Your moral code should be part of your family, so that you can truthfully say:
“In our family we do not lie.”
“We do not hit others or scream at them.”
“We do not approve of abusive speech.”
Your child will see that moral values are not mere rules to follow but that they make up the family’s identity.
Frequently discuss your family values with your child. Use everyday situations as object lessons. You could compare your values with those presented in the media or in school. Ask your child questions like: “What would you have done?” “How would our family have handled this?”
Reinforce moral values.
BIBLE PRINCIPLE: “Maintain a good conscience.”—1 Peter 3:16.
Commend good behavior. If your child displays good moral values in what he does, praise him for it and explain why. For example, you could say: “You were honest. I am proud of you.” If your child confesses to having done something wrong, sincerely commend him for his honesty before you correct him.
Correct bad behavior. Help your children accept responsibility for their actions. Children should know what they did wrong and how their conduct deviates from the family’s value system. Some parents are reluctant to make their child ‘feel bad’ about misbehavior, but discussing bad behavior with your child this way will help him develop a conscience that is sensitive to right and wrong.