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Teaching a child morals

Published 4:47pm Saturday, January 5, 2013

QUESTION: We are being challenged as parents and grandparents to do a better job in teaching morals to our children. Do you have ideas about how to do that effectively?


ANSWER: In “Raising Good Children,” Dr. Thomas Lickona observes that kids get plenty of values today, but most of them are being taught by television, movies, advertising and friends – rather than parents. The question needs to be asked: “Do we, as parents, have different values than those the media culture is teaching?” If we do, we need to be clear about our own values and decide to give direct moral instruction to our children. Here are some moral concepts: Are these important to you? Are you able to give illustrations from your own family history or your life that explains why? Do your kids know how you feel and why?

•Moral courage: Doing the right thing in the face of personal risk or social pressure. Robert Kennedy said it is rarer than bravery in battle.

•Excellence: Any job worth doing is worth doing well.

•Fairness: Fair and square, learn to share.

•Freedom: Other people’s freedom is as important as my own. Freedom has limits.

•Faith: Poet Walt Whitman wrote that when a child believes in a good God, life becomes much clearer. It’s like finding a path through a dark woods.

•Humility: Chinese philosopher Confucius said that a man who commits a mistake and doesn’t admit it is committing another mistake.

•Happiness: Psychologist Nevitt Sanford wrote that happiness is the habit of taking pleasure in life. If you don’t know how to enjoy life, you’re going to be a burden to other people.

•Honesty: Being trusted is one of the most valuable assets anyone can have.

•Patriotism: The ideals that all people are moral equals, that they have the same inalienable human rights, and that the government’s purpose is safeguarding those rights have served as the conscience of the nation.

•Sportsmanship: Tennis champion Chris Evert shares that from the time she was 6, her father drilled into her the importance of being controlled in competition; she was told to learn to be gracious whether she lost or won.

•Understanding: Never judge people until you have walked a mile in their shoes.

Part of moral teaching is asking kids questions that make them think. The other important part of moral instruction is telling kids what we think.


If you would like to talk about the challenges in raising children, call the toll-free Parent Warm Line at 1-888-584-2204/Linea de Apoyo at 1-877-434-9528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out

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