We all want our children to be kind to others, respectful, and do the right thing even when it’s difficult or unpopular.
To achieve that our kids need to understand moral principles. But it’s very easy as busy parents to forget that and focus on moral behavior. Do you find yourself repeatedly saying things to your kids like…
- Please wash your hands after you use the bathroom
- Stop hitting your sister
- Please don’t talk with your month full
Notice how each of these statements tells a child WHAT to do, but not WHY to do it. There’s no moral principle being taught.
Without a good understanding of moral principles, children tend to drift in one of two directions. Either they become self-absorbed, doing what they want for themselves at that moment, or they become fearful, obedient robots who never do anything wrong but are not able to think for themselves either. I don’t think any parent wants their kids to end up in either of those places.
So, instead of just telling your kids what to do, try explaining why…
- Please wash your hands after you use the bathroom, because you have germs on your hands and we don’t want you to get sick.
- Stop hitting your sister. We love her very much and we don’t want to see her hurt.
- Please don’t talk with your month full, because it’s respectful of the other people at the table.
There are at least three important benefits to explaining why.
- Your child is more likely to obey you in that moment when they understand why.
- Your child is more likely to respect you because they see that you are not just acting arbitrarily and bossy but have a reason for your request.
- Your child is more likely to behave well on their own in the future because they understand the moral principle behind the behavior.
Sometimes the reason why may seem obvious. Or perhaps you’ve explained why a dozen times before. But you know from experience, nothing is quite as obvious as it should be to a child. At one time I thought it was obvious why it’s not a good idea to hide dirty underpants in the back of a closet. I thought no explanation was needed as to why you shouldn’t pick your sisters scabs.
From a pure time-saving perspective, you don’t have time to NOT take the extra 15-30 seconds to explain to your kids why they should do what you’re asking them to do. But of course, telling your kids why not only saves time in the long run but also helps them become healthy, responsible adults.
- Have you been intentionally explaining the why in addition to the what to your children?
- If you have, what impact have you seen this have on your children?
- If not, what do you think about giving it a try for a week and then post a comment and let us know how it went?