Here are 7 different ways to teach children morals that will last a lifetime.
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 patient.”
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.
7 Ways to Teach Children Morals That’ll Last a Lifetime
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 other players.
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 seen 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 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.
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 conversation.
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.
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