Values and ethics

During the past week most every parent of an 11-year-old across Barbados was concerned or elated about their child’s performance in the Barbados Secondary School Entrance Examination (the common entrance). There were smiles almost everywhere as parents and children beamed before the cameras of the media.

As I watched I considered the future behaviour of these soon to be “high school children” and it suddenly occurred to me that we have all focused on reading, writing and arithmetic but have we taught them about values and ethics.

If we want to be honest with ourselves we all know that hardly any children go to Sunday School like we had to in our day. We also know that the family environment is burdened with problems like child abuse and drug use and in the absence of religious guidance very often young children are accidents waiting to happen.

I know you are asking at this time where could she be going with this article. Well the education system is already being asked to do more and more for the nation’s children but if the truth be told there is a window of opportunity where short programmes could be included that may possibly build awareness among young minds.

For instance, just after exams like the common entrance my niece told me, nothing happens at school so perhaps the class three and four teachers in association with parents could take this opportunity to have short sessions that include role play to help build better citizens in our country.

For instance, there could be a short course called Teaching Values and Ethics. The parents too must get on board, they know that their child is about to take a big step and this phase will quickly pass. I know that this may sound like I am trying to control what people do, or that I am trying to add more load to an already exhausted curriculum, but just think about it.

If a fellow understands from a young age that bullying is wrong or that robbing an elderly person is not the right thing to do, do you think that he will stray far from that precedence when he meets the gang in high school. The article this week is about teaching values and ethics.

As usual, I completed some Internet research which revealed that such an ideas has occurred to others. If it has already occurred to us here in Bim then I take a bow, but until I hear of it this article can be considered a suggestion that could influence children’s future behaviour and perhaps reduce the rate of bullying and other negative behaviours in or out of school.

I have never heard of a parent who did not build a halo around the head of their child. Even when in police custody with all the evidence pointing at him/her the parent is always in denial. This is because parents see their child as extensions of themselves and very often vicariously enjoy the successes and reject the failures of their off spring.

This is just how it is, but success is not attained in the middle of the night we have to work hard to achieve it. Like success having a child that embraces high moral and ethical values can only be achieve through effort.

So this means that parents must first set the standard that they want their child to achieve. This, according Joseph and Edna Josephson, means that parents must first determine what values are important. Then the next step is enforcing these values in a consistent manner that is well grounded in a structure which rewards positive behaviour while ensuring that negative behaviour is followed by the requisite consequences.

Here are some suggested guidelines for development of good character that the Josephsons have place on their website (

1. Trustworthiness — be honest, do not deceive, cheat or steal. Be reliable, do what you say you will do and be loyal.

2. Respect — try to always treat others with respect and be tolerant of other people’s differences. Use good manners always and do not use fowl language. I know situations at times may force you to do so but try your best to control this habit.

3. Be responsible — exercise control and do what you are supposed to do. Be accountable for your choice, this means that when you have made a decision, stand by it and do not seek to blame others for your actions

4. Fairness — play by the rules. Take turns and share, this means that when you are given out while batting although the bat may be yours be a good sport and let others have a turn at playing the game. Be open minded and do not take advantage of others.

5. Caring — be kind and considerate towards others, also use compassion and express gratitude. Be quick to forgive others and try wherever possible to assist people in need.

6. Citizenship — as a citizens always try to do your fair share. Stay informed, this may mean reading your daily papers and listening to the news. Try to be a good neighbour and above all, always obey the laws and rules which govern your school, workplace and country, these were devised to keep order. Always show respect to authority and protect our environment it is on loan to us and may not last forever.

Although these six steps were outlined by the authors they went on to suggest that both parents and teachers must clearly define values and then by their actions be good examples to their child or ward.

For instance, a child must be made to understand that good character and success depends on what really is on the inside and not what brand you wear on the outside or what is the colour of your skin. Therefore, parents and teachers should reward good behaviour with praise and discourage all instances of bad or unfair behaviour.

This means that when a child is caught lying he/she should have to face the consequences of that action not considering if he or she is the prettiest child in school or whether or not the parents are affluent.

Together parents and teachers should state precisely what behaviours they want and expect from their child. The child should know up-front that it is expected to demonstrate respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and trustworthiness.

Last but by no means least, parents and teachers alike should demonstrate these high values in the way that they live. They should realise that everything that they do is modelled by their child or ward. For instance, a parent may offhandedly says that their mother “is a miserable old bat” and do not realise that such a statement may send the message that they do not respect the elderly.

The child may then interpret this as not having to respect old people and this may come back to haunt them in their old age. You see according to the authors whatever you allow your child to do, you have encouraged.

Finally, we must all remember that building these values and ethical behaviours does not occur overnight and during the process both parents and teachers will encounter difficulty. The key is to consistently do the right things whenever and wherever possible and by being a role model someday your child or ward will demonstrate these high values that we have instilled in them.

My congratulations to all those children who have performed of their best and who are going on to enter secondary school, remember the climb to success has now begun. Until next time please remember charity begins at home.

* Daren Greaves is a Psychology and Management Consultant

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