Earlier this week, I heard the story of a Texas
high school lacrosse player who jumped the line to get a better
seat during the boarding of his team’s flight. When his coach found
out about his player’s cut in front of others, he asked flight
officials if he could use the moment to teach his player a lesson.
The coach had flight attendants call the line jumper to the front
of the plane to issue a formal apology. The teen took the
embarrassing punishment well, saying, “My coaches taught me a
valuable lesson in life in a very creative way. Just be
Coaches and parents have a responsibility to help kids grow
morally as well as physically. And that goes double for us as
leaders and volunteers in children’s ministry. According to the Barna Institute,
the moral development of children is complete by age 9. Kids have
already set in their minds what’s right and wrong, and the majority
of their spiritual identity has been set. So how can we best mold
our kids’ moral mindsets before it’s too late? Here are 7 easy
things to keep in mind to help you teach morals to children.
1. Teachable moments. Lessons are OK, but when
you can teach kids about morals in real-life situations, the
message will stick. When an opportunity presents itself, don’t
worry about following your lesson plan; go with the flow and talk
to your kids about morals.
2. Moral model. Give yourself a moral check-up
and see if you are setting a good example for your kids. Then spend
time with your kids outside of “lesson time.” Let them see you and
your good morals in various situations. Have a gym? Play basketball
with your kids and let them see you taking turns and cheering on
3. Make guidelines. At my old church we had a
gym, and in it we had a sign of rules to obey. In other churches, I
have seem similar “classroom rules” posted. Why don’t we do that
with morals? Make a sign and verbally tell kids what moral rules to
live by. Things like: “Always cheer for others, even if they aren’t
on the same team” or “Always tell the truth, no matter how hard it
can be” or “Have the courage to do what’s right.”
4. Other kids. Make a list of morals or traits
that you want your kids to have-things like compassion,
citizenship, truthfulness, and accountability. Then go online and
find stories of kids that demonstrated those traits. Give your kids
examples of others their age that are making a difference and doing
good in the world. (You can often find stories of inspirational
kids under Today’s Headlines at the Children’s Ministry
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5. Change punishments. The coaches of the
lacrosse player didn’t want to embarrass their player for the fun
of it. They wanted to teach the teen a lesson that he wouldn’t
forget and that would make him a better person. When an opportunity
comes, don’t punish or shame your kid. Come up with an idea to let
the child learn and make amends. Have a child who steals a snack?
Don’t just get on to them and take their snack away. Let them help
make snacks the next week and then serve it to others before they
enjoy it. Just remember, don’t shame your kids into behaving
differently, and always give them chances to change.
6. Story time. In a
blog post earlier this month about lying, I talked about Dr.
Victoria Talwar’s research on kids and why they fib. One part of
the research suggests that when kids hear stories where the hero
learns to tell the truth (think George Washington and the cherry
tree), they are more likely to tell the truth themselves. Other
studies agree that kids remember the moral lessons taught in
stories. You could point out moral lessons from the newest movie or
talk about the classic ethics taught from Aesop’s fables. Anything
kids read or watch can be used to open the door to a moral
7. Bible study. Of course, if you’re looking
for stories to use to teach kids right from wrong, nothing beats
the Bible. Try this: tell kids about a time you had a hard decision
to make, a moral dilemma. Then explain how you used (or could have
used) the Bible to help you out.
Remember to check our website for more tips on how to help teach
your kids morals, including how to help young
kids make wise choices. Also, we want to hear from you! We want
to know how you teach morals to your kids. Do you have any creative
tips to teach right from wrong? If so, let us know! Use the comment
section below to share your stories!