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Six Essential Values to Teach your Children at Any Age

Six Essential Values to Teach your Children at Any Age
Six Essential Values to Teach your Children at Any Age

As we wave our children off to school each morning, it’s tempting to think that the work of teaching our children the important things in life is being taken care of for us. But while schools can teach knowledge — how to read and write, how to do math, history, geography, biology and so on — even the best schools have a harder time teaching the all-important morals and values that will stay with your child for life.

And those values are important, not only because they make children more pleasant to spend time with, but because they are the best protection you can give your child against peer pressure, the temptations of popular culture, and frivolous distractions from the hard work and decency required to lead a successful, fulfilling life. 

But teaching those values can be a daunting prospect. Here, we take a look at six key values and how to teach them to your children, no matter what age they are. 


All preschool age children go through a developmental stage of learning to lie, as they experiment with the boundaries between reality and imagination. Often they have a hard time distinguishing between what is true and what they want to be true, and lies at this stage are indicative of nothing more than an active imagination. As they progress into their early school years, children’s understanding of reality becomes more set, but they may lie in order to gain status among their peers. 

It’s important during these early years to teach honesty and integrity, so that they don’t develop a habit of lying as they mature. The best way to do this is through modeling honesty as a parent. Don’t make promises, like ‘We’ll go swimming this weekend’ or ‘We’ll have ice-cream for dessert’ that aren’t followed through. If plans do have to change, be upfront and honest about why they need to change, to demonstrate that it’s better to be honest and admit problems than to lie to cover them up. 

If you catch your child in a lie, don’t get angry, as that will incentivize them to lie further to try and avoid your anger. Instead, help them to fix the problem that they lied to cover up, again, demonstrating that it’s better to be honest and face up to mistakes than to try to hide them. 

Determination and self-sufficiency

The saying “God helps those who help themselves” was a popular motto in ancient Greece, and it’s as true today as it was back then. A can-do attitude and the determination to see things through is one of the biggest factors in achieving success in almost any situation. 

While we all have skills we’re naturally good at; equally, we all have our weak spots, whether it’s sports, math, or even social skills. As a parent it’s tempting to step in and do for our children whatever it is they find hard, but of much greater value is taking the time to step back and cheer them on from the side-lines so that they learn that with perseverance, they can achieve difficult tasks themselves. 

Teaching age-appropriate self-sufficiency from early childhood is also key to building self confidence and the resilience to try, try, and try again. Start with small tasks such as tying shoe-laces and brushing teeth before moving on to more complex tasks. 

Responsibility and accountability

Along with self-sufficiency and determination, a sense of responsibility and the ability to fulfill responsibilities is another key determination of future success. 

Children should be encouraged to be responsible for certain tasks and projects. It needn’t always be chores; you might want to give your children a patch of garden that is their own for example (a better option than a pet as there’s less heartache if it goes wrong!). 

Set clear boundaries and expectations by discussing what they need to do to fulfill their responsibility, and model accountability by reviewing their progress within a certain time frame. Conversely, it’s also important also to model expectations for other people’s responsibilities so that later in life they don’t feel responsible for absolutely everything and everyone, including those things that are outside their control. 

So, for our garden example, you might want to sit down and help them plan what they want to do with their patch of garden, be it to grow vegetables, flowers, or even do something else completely. Also discuss what you will be doing with the rest of the garden yourself. After a month or two, you can take a look at what progress has been made in their patch, and in the rest of the garden, so that they can see how everyone is accountable for their own part of the whole. 


In times gone by, teaching respect meant ensuring that children called their elders ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’, but there’s more to respect than being polite. Respect means listening to other people and taking the time to hear their point of view. 

A great way to model respect is by having conversations with your children about topics where there are many points of view. Whether it’s around the dinner table or on car rides, try asking philosophical questions such as ‘Do you think there are alternate universes?’ or ‘Where do our personalities come from?’ 

Encourage your children to share their views, but also to listen patiently to others as they share their views too, and then to ask respectful questions about why they hold those views to better understand the other person’s point of view. 


Studies have found that people who practice gratitude are happier, less stressed, have better relationships and are more resilient when times are tough than those who don’t. 

Prayer is a great way to teach gratitude, as we remember to give thanks for the things we have been blessed with. Non-religious families can also do this too, either by keeping a gratitude journal as a family or as individuals, or by simply setting aside some time each day, perhaps before bedtime, to recount those things we are grateful for. In this way, gratitude will become a life-long habit. 

It’s also a good idea to teach gratitude toward others, by encouraging children to write thank-you notes or cards for birthday and holiday gifts each year. 


Teaching generosity helps children to learn that their needs are not at the center of the universe; that there is a world beyond themselves. Just as with gratitude, a generous spirit makes for a happier, more joyful life as your children grow and mature. 

Siblings are notorious for bickering among themselves, but family dynamics offer the perfect opportunity to learn to share and take turns. Although you will need to act as referee when they are young, continuous and patient modeling of turn-taking will pay dividends as they grow, creating a more harmonious family atmosphere. 

When crafting, you might want to encourage them to occasionally make gifts for each other as well as making things for themselves, to demonstrate that achievements don’t always have to be for self-gain. 

Raising money for charities, or volunteering as a family are also excellent ways to teach generosity, and can even be fun too! 

Whatever you do, remember that children learn by example at all times. If you want to instill good values in your children, there’s no better place to start than with your own behavior. Parenting really is a case of ‘being the change you want to see in the world’!

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