How do you think of yourself? Are you kind, tolerant, well-mannered, loving, honest and caring? So, why does your child seem like anything but? If the “apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” these same characteristics should be theirs, right?

Parenting can be a rough road. The shared knowledge that there is not a manual for this most important job in life provides no consolation when it comes to shaping those “mini me’s.” Every parent has high hopes for their child. Getting them to come to fruition is another matter altogether. That is where ethical parenting comes into play.

What is “ethical parenting”? It is hard to sum up in few words. The idea involves teaching your children basic moral values, manners and rules for living that will assist them in becoming productive members of society. So, you might say, we want to keep them from becoming criminals. That goes without saying, but as many know, all criminals don’t look disreputable at first glance.

Teaching at home involves ingraining certain ideals within the mind so that they can be referred to when needed – much like school. For instance, your child walks into the classroom for the first time. The teacher says “hello.” The proper thing to do is respond in kind. For children, this has to be taught so they know what to say and when to say it.

For many parents, the idea of giving your child an “ethical” upbringing is like holding up a mirror. You are forced to examine your belief system in an effort to create a solid foundation for your child to grow. At the same time that you are instructing the child, their innocent questions and demeanor could be transforming you as well.

In this report, we’ll examine certain positive values that can enhance the life of a child. This includes responsibility, tolerance, good will and manners. Children benefit from these values at any age. Even if your child is not a toddler anymore, it is not too late to begin instituting a different tack on parenting.

The Importance of Manners

Will It Be Vinegar or Honey?

We’ve all heard the saying about flies and their attraction to honey as opposed to vinegar. That is where manners come in. The use of manners is neither ethical nor non-ethical, but manners do go a long way to helping your child in this society. Many people grew up with these teachings on their lips as soon as they could utter a word. Today, media and popular figures downplay certain common courtesies that have always been inherent in civilized life.

Manners have many benefits. One, they develop other traits like respect (which we will discuss later). Here are some examples of manners for a child:

  • Please and thank you – When you desire something, asking for it politely acknowledges that someone else must provide you with what you need. When you receive it, “thank you” shows your gratefulness for services rendered. To a child, this is demonstrated as simply as ending a request for a toy or a snack with the word “please,” and saying “thank you” when they receive it.
  • Waiting your turn – Whether they are standing in line at recess or waiting to be served dinner at home, you will get attention when it is your time. Pushing or shoving to get ahead is not good manners.
  • Greeting a new face – When you meet someone, it is customary to say “hello.” This is a friendly way to present yourself to another person. For kids, it can break the ice on the first day of class. This greeting puts people at ease.
  • Knocking before entering – All parents will appreciate when kids get the hang of this one. A closed door is not an opportunity to peek and snoop. Nothing insidious has to be going on; your teacher may need to straighten her stockings, for example. Knocking lets someone know you are there. Then you ask permission to enter.
  • Avoid teasing – Kids can be cruel. They don’t always mean to be. With a bit of instruction, they can learn the difference between noticing a difference and making someone else feel bad. It is okay to ask a person about things, but calling someone “four eyes” because they wear glasses or “snail” because they walk a bit slowly is unkind. Joining in a teasing event because everyone else is doing it is also unacceptable as proper behavior.
  • Obedience – Your child’s teacher wants the class to stay quiet but your child feels like talking. It is important that they understand that following direction is polite. It shows respect for the person giving them. They are breaking the rules when they disobey at school and at home. Breaking rules comes with consequences.
  • Excuse me – There is only so much space in the world. It is likely that your child will bump into another person at some time in their lives. The polite thing to say in these instances is “excuse me.” Those two words can keep an accident from turning into something worse. A little goes a long way.
  • Personal hygiene – Everyone can agree that this is important, if not to be polite then to keep parents from being mortified in public. For a kid, that means being taught not to pick their nose, and placing their hand over their mouth when coughing or sneezing. It is even better to do either of these two things into the crook of your arm. Spitting is also frowned upon for any reason.

Remember the question in the opening paragraph? If you are teaching your kids these mannerisms, why are they doing just the opposite? First, the younger the child, the longer it will take them to learn to model these manners on a consistent basis. Keep going. Time is your friend, not your enemy.

Second, the children don’t only model what they are taught formally by you but also what they see and hear when you think they are not looking. Aha! Could that be it? Ethical parenting involves discovering what values are important to you, as the parent, and living them.

This is not a slam on your personal beliefs. Kids don’t split hairs when it comes to ethical behaviors that they are being taught. For instance, telling your child to wait patiently in the lunch line may become confusing when they see you jumping line at the customer service counter because you don’t feel like you have to wait just to ask a question. The same can be said if you park in the handicapped spot in front because you just have to run into the store for a gallon of milk.

Just like our kids, we’ve picked up shortcuts and certain ways of doing things because of the influences of those around us. Over time, our actions may have become automatic. Now that the title of “parent” is ours to cherish, these actions may be called into question by our kids. How will you handle these situations when (and they will) they arise?

Teaching Values to Your Child

Children are blank slates. Everything they learn comes from you first, as their parents. What will you teach them that will transform them into decent people over the course of their lifetime? For the parent who wants to focus on an ethical upbringing for their child, here are a few values that are worth investing in.


It is still the best policy. Telling the truth puts everyone on an even playing field. Certain situations can be handled even better when everyone is up front about the details. This particular trait is tempered with tact. Everything you know doesn’t need to be said. A child should keep silent when they want to point out that they think that the lady at the next table is eating too much. Or, that the homeless woman smells bad. It is okay to have opinions but that doesn’t mean that the person of whom they are about wants to hear what you have to say.

Telling the truth isn’t always met with a smile and good vibes. It can cause pain at times. Avoiding the truth to avoid pain is not a good plan for yourself or your kids. It promotes denial and can eventually give way to rationalizing lies if they are in the service of the “greater good.”


Not all of today’s generation seem to know what this value actually entails. Respect involves acknowledging another person’s right to exist. We are all members of the human race. The same way that your child has a right to breathe the air, get an education, walk down the street and go to school, other kids have that same right. Disabilities, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or socioeconomic background do not nullify the basic rights that are guaranteed to all human beings.

It is not okay to disrespect someone because they are different. By the same token, disagreements in opinions or values do not give anyone the right to infringe upon someone else’s wellbeing. Respect says that they have a right to be different without harm. Children usually view differences with curiosity, not distaste. The negative attitudes come from others around them.


This sums up the manners that we presented earlier. It is taught, but becomes a way of life when the benefits are realized. Being kind to others transforms the life of the person modeling these characteristics. It feels good to be nice. The trick is teaching your child that even when another doesn’t reciprocate, they should continue to be polite anyway. There are people who will appreciate it.


This one goes a long way. It encompasses so many aspects of our lives. For children it might mean picking up their toys and putting them away after play. Brushing teeth in the morning and making the bed are both chores that can teach accountability.

On a bigger scale, seeing their parents model this behavior could take other forms. Voting in local elections, taking care of the monthly bills, helping someone in need and volunteering are also examples of responsibility in a civic and social way. Assisting those who need it, when we can, is not just a matter of responsibility but also caring for those we love.


Notice that we did not say “humiliate.” That is what most people see in this world. Humiliation breaks down the fiber of a person even when someone says it was meant to help them. Instead, we are referring to being humble. In short, when playing games, kids can learn to be gracious winners. There are not only sore losers but also sore winners. Holding your victory over another or teasing someone when they lose is not a sign of humility but pride.

Admitting when you are wrong and apologizing when someone has been hurt is also a sign of humility. It shows more care for the other person’s feelings and making it right, than being wrong in front of others.


Let your yes be yes and your no be no. It involves keeping your word to others. Making promises to get what you want and then reneging on your word is not a good way to live. When your child tells someone that they will do something, make sure that they keep their promise even if it becomes difficult. When they can’t come through, it is best to be honest as soon as they know and even ask for help. That way, the trust that others place in them is not undermined.


The world is not a fair place, as we all know. For a child, fairness is a matter of course as they only know of the world what you teach them until they are old enough to understand for themselves. Each of us, however, can do our part to uphold fair dealings by not taking advantage of others. At play, for example, wait your turn and share toys with others.


This is a harder character trait to nail down. Basically it refers to being able to put yourself in another’s shoes. For a child, that might mean giving a friend who has nothing to eat a piece of their sandwich at lunch. The ability to see someone else’s need as your own is best demonstrated by parents who also seek to do the same within their family and the community at large.


Many could benefit from additional lessons in this area. It seems that many people have little acceptance of those who are different. These prejudices can infect children without them even knowing why they should feel this way. Tolerance is much like respect; it acknowledges what makes us unique. This includes differences in race, religion, sexual orientation, economic status and gender.

One way to promote tolerance is through knowledge. Explain differences when kids have questions. Let them know that diversity is not a sign of something bad. All people may not look or act the same, but we are all human beings.

Role Playing

The key to parenting is communication. Keep your kids engaged in dialogue from birth until they leave your house, and even after that. Family meetings and dinners encourage talking about life in general and what has happened during each day in particular.

When kids have issues, try your hand at a bit of role playing. Help them to see not only their side, but the view of others as well. Are they having a fight with a friend? Discuss how to diffuse an argument without hurt feelings or coming into physical contact. The great thing about it all is that what they learn in interactions with their parents and peers, translates into better interpersonal skills as they move into adulthood.

Ethical parenting is as much a series of lessons for your kids as it is for you as the parent. Each value taught strengthens their understanding or right and wrong, as well as how to live as an integral part of society in a positive way.