How do we learn principles and ethics? How do we instill values in young children that will last? How can we raise children today with strong ethical values?
A Haitian creole greeting is “Onè” or “Honor” and the response is “Respè” or “Respect”. It’s a very old form of greeting and these days is mostly practiced mainly in the provinces, though all Haitians know the significance of this salutation. When someone comes to visit the home, before entering, they call out “Onè”. The greeting response is “Respè” which means respect. If there is no response to the call of ” Onè”, the caller will not enter, as he has not received the sign to proceed or enter. It tells a great deal of the origins of a people when these two words are held in reverence. Honor is synonymous to integrity. A person who is honorable is someone who is held in high regard. To treat someone honorably like a special guest, is to hold them in high esteem. When someone carries himself with honor, he in turn is greeted with respect.
As parents, we are charged with the task of being our children’s first teachers. They learn from our actions and deeds. From very early on, babies mimic sounds they hear and movements they see. A baby coos and babbles trying to replicate the sound of his mother’s voice. This early interaction will very soon develop into the copycat behaviors of learning mobility, first by crawling and then by walking. We as parents are our children’s most influential teachers. In their early life, parents are the superheroes, of their children. Their innocent eyes see Dad as the strongest, fastest and most capable Iron Man in existence. Mom is the most beautiful woman in the world. She is the kindest, smartest Wonder Woman character whose capacity to ward off any villain, cure every illness makes everything happen perfectly and magically. As they grow, their perceptions of us as parents also become more realistic. They begin to realize that we are human beings and although we still have a huge influence over them, we become mere mortals without the superhuman powers they had perceived in their early years. The fact still remains that we are highly influential in the lives of our children and as such, we have a moral and social responsibility to raise them with good examples.
The home is where children first learn honor and respect. If they witness a father treating a mother with loving respect and honoring her as a partner, and vice versa they will mirror this in their relationships. If they grow up in a home where they can see that their parents interact with each other as well as towards others respectfully and courteously; they too will follow and react with the same behavior. It is equally the case for the negative and ugly behavior. They will also learn to be rough, impatient, and disrespectful if this is the example they are given at home. As much as schools are places in which our formal education is learned, I feel that our home education is of equal or greater importance as it is there that we learn the principles of life. Teaching by example helps character development. Parents need to have a strong sense of moral authority and values which are practiced in daily life. We have a duty as parents and as a community to uphold and teach the next generation values and traditions to be practiced and upheld. It really does “take a village to raise a child”.
Here are 6 principles for raising responsible ethical children:
1.Make character development a high priority.
This means that you need to help develop positive characteristics in your children that will help mold them into their future adult selves.
2. Have a strong sense of moral authority.
You can be the compass for your children. By parenting with reason, fairness and love, you will be able to set good boundaries.
3. Love your children.
When children feel loved, they can create an attachment. Feeling safe and stable in an environment makes children more receptive to be guided. Make the time for them and have meaningful conversation and one on one time. Open communication is important for dialogue and sharing ideas.
4. Teach by example.
Practice what you preach. You have to exhibit the traits that you wish your children to mirror. When you define your value system, you make it easier for your children to follow your lead.
5. Teach your children to be responsible.
By teaching your children cause and effect in their actions, they will learn to take ownership of their decisions. You also need to help them to understand why certain things are right and others wrong. Moral reasoning helps children develop a conscience, which will be important for their decision making when you are not around. Expose your kids to what is noble and heroic. Highlight positive role models to emulate. This will help to develop integrity, compassion and courage.
6. Discipline wisely and fairly.
Discuss and set expectations for them to observe. When you are able to do that, children know and understand what is acceptable and what is not. They can then be held accountable for their actions.
It is of the utmost importance in my opinion to raise children with ethical values. Today more than ever we see how small our world truly is and how our behavior both positive or negative impacts our global community. It is vital to regard each other with honor and respect. These small actions and observances can create a more positive and tolerant environment in the world. I wish many of today’s leaders could be reminded of this as well.