6 ways to foster good morals

16.04.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

“I went to parent-teacher meeting, and all the teachers clutched their heads because of my son. He talks during lessons, doesn’t respond to redirections, last week he cut all the plants in his English teacher’s office, he called it “spring pruning”. His homeroom teacher told me to “work on his public morals” before it is too late. How do I even do it? I know I am also at fault, but I am a single mother, I have to work a lot and have little time to spend with my son and raise him properly. How can I fix it now?”

– Olga, 37

Fostering good morals is often a difficult task. Parents lack time and knowledge, while teachers might lack the desire. As the result, children are left to their own devices. However, a human becomes a person through upbringing, because without it we wouldn’t even be able to talk. It is family that plays the most important role in personality development, and school comes only after. Let’s see what we can define as good morals, why we need them and how we, as parents, can raise out children to be ethical and wholesome.


  1. Definition of morals
  2. Why developing morals in children is important
  3. 6 methodsof ethical upbringing

Definition of morals

The word “morals” is often used as a synonym for morality, ethics and even spirituality. These things, indeed, have a lot in common. However, there is a catch: even close neighbors can perceive morals and spirituality differently, depending on their religious and other views. We are going to define morals the way it is done in secular Russian society.

So, morals are a set of inner rules and values which define person’s behavior and are based on the ideas of righteousness, kindness, compassion, responsibility and care  towards people and nature.
moral education

Fostering good morals starts from birth. A child learns proper conduct from their parents. But why cannot we simply live for our own sake? Why do we have to take other people and the world around us into account? Let’s look at these points more closely.

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Why developing morals in children is important

Some people say that we can live even without morals, so why do we have to follow some odd rules? The freedom is the most important, after all. However, the idea of ethical upbringing plays a great role in healthy society, where a man is a man to others, not a wolf.

Moral conduct plays the following roles:

  • Control of social conduct.  Developing morals and ethics lets people interact while considering the other person’s needs. It is important to have it two-sided, meaning that not only we have to consider other people’s needs, other people have to consider ours. This makes life convenient and comfortable for all members of society, ensures safety, protection and humane attitude towards weaker and less protected people.
  • Evaluation and control of personal conduct.  A person who has an inner understanding of good and bad can properly evaluate their actions and follow the principle of “personal freedom ends where other person’s freedom begins”. For example, before cutting plants in other person’s office, we should first think how our conduct will affect others. We were not the ones to grow the plants, the other person will be upset and the plants may die. As the result, we will just damage other people and their property.
  • Evaluation of others’ conduct. Ethical upbringing also lets us notice when other people break social norms, hurt other people and inflict damage. For example, a troublemaker from next door is torturing a kitten, is that a good behavior? Does that weak and helpless creature need my help?
  • Comfortable social life.  It is important for every person to establish strong and healthy relationships with other people, as it drastically improves the quality and duration of life. Few people will be willing to interact with a nasty and obnoxious person. We often reciprocate, and a schoolchild will find it easier to build a relationship of trust with other people if their parents fostered in them proper moral and ethical qualities.

Should I give my seat to an elderly? Can I take other people’s belongings? Can I spoil school property? Should I throw away garbage in a nearby bush, or should I carry it to a bin? Should I up the volume of music at night? In all such situations we make decisions based on our own moral principles.

6 methods of ethical upbringing

So, how can we organize ethical upbringing in a family? Here are several ways to do so.

Set an example

Children often follow their parents conduct, rather than their moral teaching. If the words contradict reality (for example, if parents forbid fights but beat their children), a child will acquire the same mode of conduct. That is why it is extremely important to display the behavior you expect from children.

2. Positive reinforcement

Note the conduct you expect your child to maintain and show your appreciation and gratitude. [1] If your son helped his younger brother for the first time, do not say irritated something like: “Well, it was about time.” Instead, highlight the positive side: “I saw you helping your brother change after a walk, I’m so glad you did that, you’re so big.”  Parent’s approval lets the child see that their conduct was correct.

However, if your child does something you do not approve of, do not cuss them and call them “blockhead, scatterbrain, you’ll become a criminal”. Do not deprive them of your love (I’m not going to love such a bad boy). Better focus on emotions: “I think Jane got upset after you pushed her. No one likes to be pushed, at least I don’t, and I think you wouldn’t like it as well.” Do not expect immediate apology and remorse. It takes time for the desired mode of conduct to become a personal mindset.

3. Handling emotions

Morals are based on compassion and ability to understand the feelings of others. This is why it is extremely important to have interest in your child’s feelings and speak about your own, instead of prohibiting them from expressing emotions. “Why are you upset? What do you feel? I was so worried when you were late from school, and you didn’t pick up your phone.” This will help children develop empathy and teach them to understand themselves and others.

4. Books and movies

All the things a child watches and reads greatly affect their development. Good  cartoons can reduce asocial behavior and improve grades in school. That is why it is very important to pay attention to your child’s interests. Watching movies or reading books together can become a good tradition (you can read books even with teenagers!). This will help you grow closer and give you an opportunity to discuss the contents, with attention to the qualities you wish your child to develop. For example: “Remember how Flip took a candy without paying? Why do you think he did that? … Yes, I also think he liked it. How can Flip now fix this? … Yes, in future he could ask his parents to buy him a candy.”

5. Other people as example

Schoolchildren can copy actions performed not only by their parents, but also by other people. For example, if children see aggressive behavior, they start to act aggressively themselves. A Bobo doll experiment. shows this correlation perfectly. That is why you should tell your children about people whose actions you find agreeable, emphasize those qualities and discuss them with your child. You should do this as a conversation, not a lecture—it is also important.

6. Course of ethical development for children

The earlier you start building the basis for morals, the easier moral upbringing will become later in life. However, you can always help your child to change their conduct for a more affirmative one.

For this you can use a course of ethical development, based on 7Spsy behavior modification technique. Classes are held remotely, children study independently, and psychologists support them and answer all their questions by your child’s preferred means of communication: by phone, e-mail, or in online chat.

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Behavior modification course can also become a great support when you can devote time to fostering good morals in your children yet do not know where to begin and how to teach the most important things. In just 2-6 weeks you will notice how your child’s mindset changes, along with their behavior.

All classes are completely private, so you and your child won’t have to explain to teachers and classmates why you decided to ask for help.

Do not forget that even though ethical upbringing and development can be done at any age, you should not leave it to chance and expect your child to figure everything themselves. Help your child develop moral values now.


  1. L. Obuhova, «Vozrastnaya psihologiya».