Moral precept #2: Moral training begins in parents’ hearts

As with almost everything in parenting, leading by example is key when developing character in our children.

“Moral training begins with mom and dad. Effective parents know they cannot lead their child any farther than they have gone themselves. If the prescription for moral living is not written on the parents’ hearts, it will never be passed on to the children,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 78).

If there is any character trait you wish to instill in your child, you must exhibit that trait yourself. A generation or two ago, it was accepted and common for parents to say to their children, “Do as I say, not as I do.” When it comes to important moral values, don’t allow yourself to utter this phrase.

Imagine these scenarios:

  • You, of course, want to teach your child not to steal. In the bulk foods aisle in the grocery store, you allow him to eat a piece of candy without paying for it.
  • You want to teach your child not to lie. When you answer the phone and it’s a call for your husband, he tells you to tell the caller he’s not home.
  • You want to teach your child to be kind to everyone. He hears you on the phone with a customer service representative while you lose your temper.
  • You want to teach your child not to cheat. While approaching a line at the movies, you spot a friend at the front of the line and get in line with her.

Doing and knowing right from wrong are two different things. Our children learn more from our actions than they do from what we say to them.

“Personal integrity remains one of the great credibility builders of parenthood. Hypocrisy, on the other had, will smash that credibility every time. Parental hypocrisy occurs when mom and dad exempt themselves from values they require of their children. It’s a breeding ground for contempt,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 79).

Are you ever surprised by a lack of morality in your children? Whether it’s in general or related to one specific character trait, you must look to your own actions before placing any blame on the child. If you cannot hold yourself to a certain standard, you cannot expect it of your child.

Is it always easy? Certainly not. Must we require more of ourselves now that we are parents. Yes!

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