As a parent, it’s natural for you to want your toddlers and preschoolers to grow into children with character and conviction. Both are important for many reasons, but most importantly because good morals and firm beliefs make for a solid foundation on which your little ones can grow. Besides, character and conviction mean your little ones will be pretty cool, kind little kids, which means you don’t have to panic when you see the number of their school or daycare pop up on your phone -- it’s probably just their teacher wanting you to volunteer for something with your cool kids.
Teach your little one about right and wrong. Say your four-year-old sneaks into the kitchen and eats a portion of the three-tier birthday cake you spent the past four days working on for a friend’s daughter’s first birthday -- this may or may not be a true story -- the day of the party. You notice that she’s slinking around the house, avoiding eye contact with you and acting a little weird. You confront her and her pink fondant-covered face. She starts to cry because she feels bad. She knew she wasn’t allowed to eat the cake, but she did it anyway and she felt bad. Ask her why she feels bad and explain to her how easy it is to know the difference between right and wrong. When you do something right, you feel good. When you do something wrong, you feel bad. She will keep that lesson in the forefront of her mind for a long time.
Encourage your little ones to stand up for what’s right as a way of instilling conviction. Not only will this make them feel confident and good about themselves, it will help teach them character and conviction. If your toddler sees his friend being mean to another kid in their daycare class, teach him to stand up and do the right thing, which is telling his friend to stop picking on other kids and telling the nearest adult. Your toddler will learn the importance of conviction by learning what is right and wrong and standing up for what he believes in.
Recognize good choices when your little one makes them. By making the good choices your little one makes feel good to her, you’re teaching her that it feels good to make the right choices, and she will continue to make them. If her Sunday school teacher tells you that your daughter played with the new boy today, even though none of her friends wanted to, recognize her good choices and tell her what a great friend and person she is. It will make her feel really good to have done the right thing, and from that point on, she’ll likely make an effort to befriend the new kid in class.
- Keep an eye on your own behavior. When your kids see and hear you do the right thing and stand up for what you believe in, it will give them the confidence to do the same.
- Listen to your child when he talks to you about his reasons for doing something. If he pushed another kid in daycare, listen to him. He might not have done it maliciously; he might have done it to protect another child who was being hurt in some way.
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