Teach Your Children Well

BY: Joseph I. Telushkin


Concerned about raising children to be moral and ethical people? This week, Beliefnet's ethics columnist begins a regular column devoted to solving the everyday ethical dilemmas faced by parents and kids.

Dear Joseph,

Last week, you highlighted two ethical New Year's resolutions for adults. Can you share any that specifically apply to parent-child relationships?

--Concerned Parent

Dear Concerned,

Here are two New Year's resolutions for parents that will aid children's self-esteem and moral development during the coming year.

  • Reserve your highest praise of your children for their acts of kindness. As a general rule, children receive the most praise for one of four things: academic accomplishments, athletic feats, cultural achievements, and, in the case of girls, their appearance. Such praise undoubtedly makes kids feel good, but the underlying message is that parental love may depend on their continuing to provide their parents with pleasure in these areas. Do we want our children to think that their grades, athletic achievements, or looks are what's most important about them?

    And what about the child who is not that athletic, talented, or good-looking? How does he or she get complimented? With a lukewarm, "Oh, but so-and-so is really a good kid." From which it is apparent that being a good person is not that big a deal.

    If children started receiving their highest praise when they performed kind acts, we would raise a generation of people who liked themselves most when they were being compassionate. I can't think of any better, more guaranteed way to improve the world--and your family.

    Continued on page 2: »

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