While some psychologists think values cannot be explicitly taught to children, studies have shown that the truth is a bit more complicated.
In fact, you are teaching your child your values every second you spend time with them – whether you’re conscious of it or not.
Children learn values by observing their parents’ behaviour and drawing conclusions about what their parents think is an appropriate way to think and act. They also learn from their peers, teachers, and other important people in their lives.
By the time your child reaches adolescence, they have already formed opinions about what behaviour their parents value and have developed a value system of their own.
So, besides reading them biblical teachings from their favourite Bible Comic Book, how can you consciously teach important values to your child?
Here are three ways you can instil the values of love, empathy, and justice – these values are the foundations of a solid moral compass that will help guide your child through life.
Be generous with your affection
Although we tend to think that children are naturally affectionate and loving, the truth is that loving sentiments can fade if they are not reciprocated.
You can teach your child the value of love by demonstration. Let them see you show affection toward the people in your life, and tell your child how much you love their aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents.
It goes without saying that it’s vital to express your love and affection for your child, too – no matter how busy you are. Tell them how much you love them often and demonstrate it in unexpected ways. Little surprises like packing a note in their lunchbox and giving them hugs for no reason will encourage your child to perform loving gestures for others, too.
Insist that they make amends
To instil a sense of fairness and justice in your child, insist that they always make amends after a conflict. Psychologically savvy parents want their children to be able to identify the emotions that make them misbehave and then take steps to remedy the wrong.
Simply forcing your child to say “I’m sorry” isn’t enough because it lets them off the hook without having to contemplate their behaviour. By teaching your child to make amends proactively, you’ll encourage them to treat people more fairly.
Teach them empathy and consideration
Children observe every interaction going on around them and quickly learn cause and effect – by the time they are verbal; they already know that their actions provoke certain reactions in the people around them.
A child will figure out that their words and actions can elicit a smile or make someone else upset. They will also learn that when they are kind to someone else, that person will act kindly toward them.
You provide essential feedback by telling your child that certain behaviours make you or others upset. This encourages empathy for others, resulting in genuine acts of consideration.