We all want our kids to grow to be happy and successful individuals. However, one of our earnest desires for our child is that he becomes a good human being. Surely most parents aspire this for their children but while they start making an effort for their child’s physical and mental growth even before they are born, they are not programmed to think about their moral development. Character-building is a significant part of parenting. In fact, this is such gradual and instinctive learning that we often don’t pay attention to it. Few pointers that can help parents in this exercise are-
1. Story Telling & Movies
We always try to make learning fun for our kids so it doesn’t sound like preaching and kids get bored of the lectures. Stories and even Movies are an enjoyable way of doing this. For stories, you have umpteen options from short stories to Aesop’s fables to Panchtantra / Jatak Tales and even Mythology. There are many versions being published specifically for kids.
Once children start understanding these stories, they will have questions on Why? Why not? What? How? This is your teachable moment. Answer those questions patiently and let them evaluate. Keep reinforcing the importance of staying moral and ethical.
2. Share your Experiences
We try to provide the best for our kids sometimes even beyond our means. Making kids aware of the struggles and sacrifices their parents are making is not wrong. We can spare them the details but it could be worth it to explain why we cannot buy a tricycle this month. This will help them learn from an early age that everything has a cost and to gain some you have to lose some.
Kids are a reflection of their environment especially their parents so when Duryodhana is considered a villain in Mahabharata, remember that it was Dhritrashtra who had turned a blind eye (not his physical condition). He never stopped him from wrongdoings which is a form of encouragement. Though physical punishment is a big NO under any circumstance, there are many forms of milder punishment that can be meted out. Do not overuse this method but appreciate the benefits that it may have. Exercise extreme caution and discretion.
4. Assess the company your kid keeps
Though it is not right to judge others kids or be the parent who decides who your kids can be friends with, it is vital to know what kind of company your children keep. Being friends with older children is a red flag. What is right for them may not be right for our kids. Some kids may be troubled or exhibit wrong behaviors on a continuous basis- if their parents are responsive try mentioning it to them but if you think that may bring trouble, for your kid’s good it will be better to start maintaining distance from them.
5. Set an Example
I will just mention a short story here to emphasize the importance. Once upon a time- there was a son who decided that he cannot take care of his widow mother and asked her to leave the house. While she was leaving, he gave her a blanket for the cold nights. She tore the blanket and gave half of it back to her son. She said, “Keep it son. Maybe your son will not give you a blanket when he throws you out of your house.”
Many current gen parents have grown up loving the movie DDLJ. When Simran’s mom requests Raj to run away with her daughter, Raj responds- “(translated) My mom has taught me if you take the wrong path, then maybe in the beginning you get a lot of success and happiness but in the end you will lose but if you walk on the right path then maybe you face issues and rejections earlier but in the end you will definitely win.” I am sure all of us want our sons (and daughters) to act like that- to choose right over wrong, so it is our responsibility to raise them like that.