There's a difference between raising well-behaved kids and raising moral kids. A well-behaved kid will follow the rules when someone is watching; a moral kid will follow the rules even when he is alone. Many parenting habits produce children who are well-behaved — they'll stop crying in the aisles of the store or will do whatever they can to get a good grade — but children need to become people with moral natures. The following lists things you may be doing that may have a positive effect on your kids' behavior, but not a positive effect on becoming a good person.
At the World Congress of Families IX, Tim Rarick told a story about a school with a goal of teaching its students about helping people in need. They decided to offer a reward of letting students out early if they raised a certain amount of money. While this seemed like a great idea, offering a reward made the activity ineffective at teaching the kids the value of helping others, as the goal became more about getting out early than about helping those in need. Rarick said, "The more you reward kids for doing something, the more they lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward." If you constantly reward your kids, they will become self-interested in future situations, thinking, "What's in it for me?" rather than being outwardly focused.
Punishing kids can actually lead to more misbehavior. Professor of Professional Psychology, Michael Karson, did a study to test punishment's effects. He discovered that "Punishment does not change the tendency to engage in the behavior that was punished. Instead, it makes the person … want to avoid the source of punishment. As soon as the child thinks it's not being watched (as soon as the situation seems different in some way), the tendency to engage in the behavior will reassert itself." Instead, help your child understand the natural consequences of her actions — how did it harm others? How does it affect her long-term, etc. This will change the way she looks at misbehaving and increase her desire to make the right choice.
When I was 10 I loved my long hair. I don't know why I loved my hair exactly, because it was ratty and unruly and I definitely didn't like to brush it. But I was certainly attached to it. I learned about an organization that collects hair for kids who have lost theirs. In my heart, I wanted to donate my hair but it seemed impossible to part with. Then I read "Walk Two Moons" by Sharon Creech. In the book the characters explore the question, "In the course of a lifetime, what does it matter?" This made me realize that cutting my hair was a small sacrifice that could matter a lot for someone else. All the things that I have vicariously experienced through imaginary characters in books and movies have built my own character. Stories are effective at teaching values because they allow people to explore right and wrong choices in settings we may not be in otherwise. Foster opportunities for your kids to develop morals through all types of stories. At the World Congress of Families IX, Christine Vollmer said, "Aristotle … was convinced the only effective way to teach children and young people was through stories." Not only was Aristotle a supporter of teaching through stories; Jesus Christ repeatedly used stories to teach morals.
It may seem helpful to point out areas where your kids could use improvement. But saying things like, "You aren't a hard-worker" or "You're a bad girl" makes them define themselves in terms of their weaknesses. Instead, express disappointment but belief in their potential. For example, instead of saying, "You never practice the piano like you should," say, "I'm disappointed that you choose not to practice the piano because I know you are good at things you work hard at."
Being immoral yourself
It's no secret that your kids are soaking up just about everything that you do. So it shouldn't be a surprise if your son starts being unkind to kids at school when he hears you talking negatively about your co-workers. This is probably the hardest way to foster your kid's morality because none of us are perfect people; we're still learning to be moral ourselves. However, it's important to be aware of what you are teaching your kids as you simply go about your day, and of the example you are setting for them.
Sometimes your kid doesn't obey because he doesn't know how much you care. Carole Stevens told a story of driving her granddaughter to her house. She had to stop the car and re-buckle her over and over again. Stevens tried every tactic in her toolbox to get her granddaughter to stay put for the short ride to her home, but nothing could convince the little girl to stay put. Finally Stevens turned to her and said, "Chloe, I am wearing this seat belt because it will protect me. But you aren't wearing your seat belt, and you won't be safe. And I will be so sad if you get hurt." Her granddaughter thought about this and said, "Grandma, you want me to wear my seat belt because you love me!" After Chloe realized this, she was motivated to stay in her seat belt. As you develop a relationship of love and concern for your children, they will want more and more to become the kind of person you want them to be. In other words, they will begin to develop morality for themselves.
As Tim Rarick stated, "It's not enough to just say we want our kids to act in a certain way [because] pretty soon they become actors and … they don't have the character to do what's right when people aren't looking because they were acting when people were looking." If you want to raise kids who have a moral compass, they need to get morality into their hearts. Avoid these behaviors at all costs so that you too can become a moral parent raising moral kids.