Everyday Ways to Teach Values

Pinpoint areas where your child needs extra guidance--and get tips for making values lessons stick.


If you've been trying to teach your child to be kind, honest, and polite, it can be frustrating--and heart-wrenching--when he disappoints you. He swipes some coins from your dresser and swears he didn't. He teases a boy at the bus stop. He throws books when he gets angry. In fact, according to a recent study by Public Agenda, only 34 percent of parents say they feel they've been successful in teaching their kids self-control and self-discipline.

"There's no need to panic," says Parents adviser Michele Borba, Ed.D. "A child's moral growth is an ongoing process, and all kids slip up from time to time. You still have a tremendous influence on your child's behavior."

Common problems for kids:

  • He doesn't always realize how others are feeling. (He sees a party guest sitting alone but may not guess that she's feeling left out.)
  • She doesn't tune in to body language, facial expression, or tone of voice. (Your glare and exasperated sigh have no effect until you say you're angry.)

How to help:

  • Teach her to identify her feelings and those of others ("You seem worried about your recital").
  • Teach him to interpret emotional cues ("Billy didn't look at you when you told him about your coin collection--maybe he isn't interested in coins").

Activities to try:

  • With kids under 6, write down feeling words or paste pictures of people expressing different feelings on index cards. Draw cards and act out the emotion for each other to guess.
  • Watch other people and guess how they're feeling based on their body language. ? Ask your child to imagine the result of a kind act ("How do you think Grandma would feel if she found a get-well card from you in her mailbox?").

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