Instil good values in children early

Having positive values enables us to form meaningful and trusting relationships with others and empowers us to lead a life free of guilt. These are important ingredients for a successful, responsible and productive individual.

Given their importance, it makes sense to nurture such values in our children as early as possible.

There are a few values that are seldom mentioned, and I try to inculcate these in my children.

These are: honesty, empathy and being resilient in the face of failure.

While trying to teach honesty to my four-year-old, I realised that rewarding instead of punishing a child for telling the truth about a wrongdoing is the better approach.

Rewarding does not mean giving a sweet or a toy; it can be a lesser punishment, or no punishment in some cases, and the child must also be counselled for his actions.

I often turn to role-playing or storytelling to teach empathy. This entails presenting a scenario to children, then getting them to decipher the feelings of the characters, while providing the necessary guidance. For instance, if a baby is crying on the MRT, I will tell my children that the baby could be feeling unwell or sleepy. I will then ask them what they would likely want if they were the crying baby and what we can do, as passengers, in such a situation.

There are many instances in our daily lives that we can use as life lessons for our children.

While most parents tend to help their children when they encounter difficulties, I try not to do so.

For instance, if my younger child has difficulty building a tower with Lego bricks, I will, first, simply sit by her side and provide her with encouragement, instead of building the tower with her right away.

I have realised that a lot of the time, my children will often be more motivated and exude greater satisfaction when they accomplish their goals by themselves. Whatever values we are trying to instil, they have to come from within us. Here are some tips:

• Set a good example, as our children learn from seeing, hearing and observing our actions through our daily activities.

• There is no single way to teach values. We must adapt and adopt whatever suits our children during their growing-up years.

• Each child is different, with varied learning abilities.

It might take years or decades for values to be formed. The key is, as parents, we must persevere and be consistent with the child at all times.

Tan Chin Hock

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2015, with the headline 'Instil good values in children early'. Print Edition | Subscribe