You want your kids to grow up with a strong moral compass. You want their actions to be guided by their consciences. How can you engender conscientiousness in your kids?
- 1. Lead by example. Make sure that your own actions square with your conscience. Your kids watch what you do (even when you think they don’t), and they are likely to repeat your behaviors. To increase the likelihood that they are correctly perceiving your actions and motivations: speak with them in an open, age-appropriate manner about your actions and why you chose them. For example, “I gave up my bonus check at work because I knew it wasn’t right. Payroll miscalculated the amount and wrote the check for way too much; I knew that I wouldn’t feel right about taking money that wasn’t rightfully mine.”
- 2. Speak with your kids often about “doing what’s right”. When your kids have to make tough decisions, reason through their options with them and ask them which option(s) feel to them like the right or the moral thing to do.
- 3. Help your kids develop the ability to understand issues from other people’s perspectives. For example, you might say, “I’m sorry to hear that your two best friends got in a fight today. Hitting is not the right thing to do. Why do you think Johnny hit Jimmy? Johnny doesn’t seem like a hitting-others kind of kid, so I wonder if something is going on in Johnny’s life that would prompt such unusual behavior from him. (pause for response) So, Johnny hit Jimmy in self-defense? Jimmy’s been picking on Johnny? What do you think prompted Jimmy to bully Johnny? (pause for response) I didn’t know Jimmy had problems at home. So, both boys chose poor behaviors (hitting / bullying), not because they’re “bad boys” but because of self-defense / stress related to problems at home.”
- 4. Discuss age-appropriate, weighty issues of the day, and convey the conscience-related facets to these issues.
- 5. Surround your kids with people whose behaviors reflect a conscientiousness that is a good example for your kids.
- 6. When lapses of conscientiousness occur in your kids (and it occasionally will), don’t freak out. The occasional, minor lapse is to be expected. Remain calm. Discuss what happened and, without being critical, offer feedback when you think your child is ready to receive it. For example, you may say, “Johnny, I know your sister can frustrate you. She’s little, and she doesn’t have the ability to do all the things you can do. Still, making fun of her is not the way to go. You don’t like to be made fun of, right? Does that help you understand how your sister must be feeling right now? I know you didn’t mean to hurt her; you just wanted her to stop bothering you. However, she is hurt. What do you think you can do to make it better?”
- 7. When your kids exhibit behaviors that are excellent examples of conscientiousness, praise them generously. Tell them that you are proud of them.
By following these steps as parents and nannies, you can engender conscientiousness in your kids.