Parents can pass on moral values to their kids, but it takes a little thought and energy. Values are passed along based on what kids see and hear and by what they experience in their parent-child relationship. If they see honesty, they learn honesty. If they experience love and respect, they internalize love and respect.

Parents model values during one-on-one interactions with children, and parents can advance modeling effectiveness by allowing kids to eavesdrop on conversations about “walking the walk.” Let them hear you tell a partner or friend about how you returned a cell phone you found or how you helped someone in need. Kids are like sponges—they will soak it up.

They will also soak up improper words or actions.  If kids hear and see ridicule, sarcasm, and disrespect, they will think those words and deeds are acceptable. We teach them by what we do and how we behave, and lectures to the contrary will prove ineffective.

Kids do have minds of their own. If parents want to send a message communicating moral values, it is best done in a way children can accept it—which is through actions and words.

More to consider: Demands and threats . . .

Demands and threats—“You’ll do this or else!”—may produce short-term results, but they won’t develop an internal sense of right and wrong in your child’s mind.