Families foster kindness and respect at home by setting expectations for manners, sharing, and helping with jobs. And families hope, often with a tinge of worry, that children will continue those behaviours when parents and caregivers aren't nearby: at school functions and activities, at a friend’s house, at a specialist appointment, at a restaurant dining with adult friends, or on Instagram and social media. Guiding children to be empathetic and ethical in their independent lives, even when no one is looking, can be explicitly taught by parents. Much more than a hope and a prayer style approach.
Here are some strategies for teaching children to think ethically, care about the people around them, and create positive change in their world.
To guide ethical thinking:
- Discuss ethical dilemmas you have encountered at work, with friends, and in your daily interactions with other people. Ask your children what they would have done in that situation.
- Talk about ethical dilemmas your children might face in the classroom, at lunch, or during recess. Brainstorm and role-play possible solutions.
- Encourage your children to see conflicts from another person’s perspective. Discuss ways they can compromise between their needs and those of others.
- Take every opportunity to reinforce what the right and proper way to behave looks like.
- Talk about principled decision making when it comes to the choices and decisions that young people have to make.
To foster concern for others:
- Encourage your children to really listen to siblings or peers when they are upset, especially if they don’t initially understand that person’s views.
- Teach them to be good listeners first, to seek to understand, before wanting to be heard or have their own say.
- Ask children to consider the perspectives of people they don’t usually talk to: a new student at school, a student who is often teased, a student experiencing family trouble, or a student of a different race or religion. Teach them to walk in the other person’s shoes.
- Discuss hardships you see on the news, and talk about the experiences, challenges, and feelings of people who live in different places around the world.
- Watching television and de-briefing events and occurrences in our world is helpful in shaping a tolerant and compassionate world view.
To teach children to be change-agents:
- Inspire children to take action around issues that affect them and their peers, such as the school environment, litter and care for grounds and buildings, recognising and greeting visitors, showing kindness and respect to others, observing healthy eating, wearing the uniform with pride.
- Don’t go into bat for them; counsel young people how to take action for themselves.
- Distinguish the importance of “doing with” others from “doing for” others. Encourage children to respond to community problems by working with and listening to a diverse group, rather than spearheading new initiatives without any guidance. This is particularly relevant for high school students seeking community service opportunities.
- Parents can guide children to take a richer, more meaningful approach to volunteer work.
- Model that communal approach and the importance of service. Volunteer together at a charity event or set aside a day as a family to donate unwanted clothes and toys. The Leo Club and SRC are excellent vehicles for young people to engage in service.
Reference: Leah Shafer in Usable Knowledge 27 February 2017 taken from www.principalsdigests.co.nz, Volume 23, Number 14