6 tips to teach your child good values

Here's how to raise children with good morals, with the right kind of value system.


We live in an interconnected world, a global village where information about everything, including customs, cultures, behaviour and everything in between is at our fingertips. What we see in the news (newspapers, on TV, radio and the Internet) or choose as entertainment — it’s very different from what our parents knew. And our children are growing up in this world and their future will clearly also be different. So how do we make sure they grow up “right”?

One of the great things about raising children is that as they grow into their teens, they’ll question you and the things you say. It’s good because that will force you to think about why you do the things that you do, so that you can tell them “why”.

Fiona Walker, director of schools and principal of Julia Gabriel Centre, Singapore, says, “When your child is very little, give them a clear yes or no and it’s enough. But when they get older, they need an explanation for why you’re saying ‘no’ — that could divert a temper tantrum.

“Even older children, closer to teen age, you need to ask them, involve them in the discussion and help them understand your reasoning. Tweens have tendency to be more rebellious if they feel you’re not listening and not understanding...”

We offer six tips for teaching values to your child:

1. Gratitude becomes empathy

Says Walker: “That’s almost a foundation — to have the value of gratitude within a family. If children feel grateful for what they have, they are able to feel compassion or awareness of those who don’t.” In other words, they will start to understand and empathise with others.

So you need to express how grateful you are for your life, that you are glad to have a bright, interesting child, a supportive, fun spouse, that you are happy you have a house with good neighbours/close family to help, and so on.

This will also help with sibling fights. A mother of two herself, Walker explains: “I think discussing emotions is important, especially for siblings. I seem to spend a lot of time saying how do you feel when he’s bugging you like that; how does he feel when you do that to him?” It will take time and repetition, but it is important to guide your child to recognise that others’ feelings are important — and to show them how to react with kindness. 

2. Do spot “teachable moments”

Of course, not everyone can make the leap from “I feel this way, maybe that person feels this way also” on their own. Which would be a good time for you to pick up on little teaching moments. When a toddler (starting early is good!) hits a playmate, for instance, stop his action and say, “it hurts when you hit — don’t” or something similar. Then tell the playmate “I’m sorry…” and insist — without yelling — that your child do so as well. Other good words to model include saying “please” and “thank you” as habits, says Walker.

That’s also why you should not yell, scream or lecture your child about values — do you really want to teach him to yell (back at you)?

Teachable moments can be as simple as you or your child dropping a plate and smashing it — getting mad doesn’t make the plate whole and your reaction (anger, cursing, irritation) could teach him the wrong values — that they are less important to you than a plate? In fact, it would be a better thing to let him finish putting the other plates away — then you could praise him for a job well done. And all of us love to be praised.

Or if it is a valuable old plate, it could be a chance to show him the fun of jigsaws (putting it together again) and showing him that old things can be valued and treasured, too.