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Little minds absorb better. How many times have you seen your little one trying to imitate you and act like a grown-up? Preschoolers especially are extra susceptible to picking behaviours and habits from their environment. This is one of the main reasons value education should start at an early age. Values like honesty, sharing and generosity are a crucial part of a child’s development and go a long way in moulding them into well-rounded adults. But how exactly does one go about developing those values? This is where parents and the child’s other caregivers play a crucial role.

1. Do as you say: It isn’t enough to lecture and drill values into your child. Preschoolers spend a majority of their time with their parents or other caregivers like grandparents or nannies, which is why it is important for all to set a good example. A simple example is how we treat others. Parents often ask their children to behave respectfully with all adults but follow through by saying unkind words about others. This teaches the child that only some adults should be treated respectfully, and this may lead to problems later. Similarly, it is not enough to teach a child discipline but to also follow through by being disciplined yourself. Your child is looking up to you for cues on how to navigate the world. It is only by exhibiting values we would like our child to imbibe such as cleanliness, honesty and respectfulness can we expect them to learn the same.

2. Resist the urge to lecture: It may be tempting to think of every moment as a teachable one, but that is simply not the case. Values are better taught through two-way communication than one-way lectures. Which is why it is important to have conversations. Ask why they made a particular decision and walk through the process while sharing your own views sparingly. This will help create a dialogue and help your child learn the implications of their behaviour on their own. After all, engagement is the key to better learning!

3. Help your child develop empathy: Children who learn empathy are less likely to have behavioural problems like fighting with other children or refusing to share. Being empathetic and compassionate to other’s needs is the foundation of a good value system. Values like cleanliness, respect and honesty stem from being empathetic to others needs of a clean environment, being treated respectfully and honestly. Helping your child to be empathetic helps them develop a wider worldview where they are not the centre of everything.

4. Speak about your values and the role they play in your life: The world is a complex place and young children look up to their parents for guidance. Discussing what values matter to you as a person, will help illustrate to your child which values they should hold close and why. For example, you can share a story about a moral dilemma you faced that day and your values helped you take the right decision.

5. Encourage through positive reinforcement: We all love a little encouragement and praise, more so children. Which is why praising your child’s behaviour when you see them demonstrate a value that is important to you is crucial. Use sentences like, “I really appreciated it when you shared your toys with your friend” or “How generous of you to help the neighbour with their chores!”

6. Make it relevant: Many people assume that a child does not have to make any decisions but that is not the case. Decisions like ignoring one friend’s birthday party for another, more exciting one, or why they should or should not share their favourite toy with a friend are laden with teachable opportunities. Supporting and guiding them in making these decisions is what helps them truly grow.

Values influence our behaviours and attitudes. As with every important thing in life, it is vital to start recognizing the difference between morals and values from an early age itself. Creating such a system will not only help your child face the challenges of life with ease and honesty but also lead them towards a more joyful and contented life.