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How to Raise Good Children to Be Good Adults

Updated on July 7, 2023
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M. D. Jackson has studied psychology since 1989. While her specialty is family relations, she also loves neuroscience and behaviorism.

Weak Parents Raise Horrible People

Parenting is not for weak people. To raise a child to adulthood and have them turn out to be a productive member of society, is not an accident. It takes careful thought and consideration to properly raise a child. Today's constant stream of inappropriate media and the glorification of bad behaviors requires parents to be tough and strong. Just when you think her have your kids figured out, you realize something you are doing is not working. While no one is the perfect parent you can put your best foot forward and educate yourself on what makes a good person.

If you don't raise good kids, you will get to raise them all over again as adults. I field over 100 emails a week from the parents of adult children who tried to easy parent their children and screwed those children up for life. Instead of fielding more emails, I'm hoping that this article helps some of you who are still parenting to be strong and not give up. I know you get tired, I know your emotions are sometimes raw, but believe me when I say that it one day all your hard work will payoff.


Courtesy and Manners

There are few lessons in life that mean as much as teaching your children how to behave around other people. Parents spend countless hours teaching kids to play sports or pushing them to do well in school, yet it is a rare occasion that I see a parent teaching a child about polite interaction. As a society it is important that we teach manners and human decency.

Children shouldn't cuss, burp (without saying excuse me), and they should be using please and thank you. Bad social skills develop when a person is a child. As adults it isn't funny when we burp in the middle of a company meeting. It isn't cute to to cuss in front of random strangers. Teaching manners to your children is a gift we give them and society.

What manners should kids learn?

  • Holding the door for others (not just women and the elderly)
  • Allowing someone else to go first
  • The proper use of "Please, Thank you, And Excuse me"
  • Pushing a chair in when leaving the table
  • Not to use a cell phone in front of others (including in a store)
  • Do not convey important information over text or social media (deaths termination ect)
  • Attentively listen to people
  • Speak at the appropriate volume for the situation (library, school)
  • Be thankful for what is given to them
  • Be respectful of other people's time

Being rude is never beneficial to you or your child. By modeling positive social behaviors, we teach our children proper manners. Even if your child chooses not to employ what you taught them, they will still be able to behave appropriately when needed. Manners are a sign of a good family and upbringing.

Educating Your Child

Good parents do not leave education up to the school system. You are a wealth of information and knowledge for your children. You have lived through history they can only read about. Educated your children about current events. Leave room for their own thoughts. Teach them about other cultures and politics.

Teach children to think critically about the information they are given by others. Remember the old saying "If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you follow them?" that is a critical thought statement concerning making your own decisions. Look at the recent Tide Pod challenge teens were doing. Any kid who tried that was not taught critical thinking. Teachers do not teach common sense, that is your job.

Things all kids should learn from their parents:

  • How to change a tire
  • How to check fluid levels
  • How to clean
  • How to Budget
  • How to cook
  • Basic survival skills
  • Common Sense
  • How to debate both sides of an argument
  • How to be aware of their surroundings

This list could go on for days. You are training your child to be a good human. That means you take your child along to learn whatever your are doing from cleaning to rebuilding an engine, teach your child. Once they are grown it is too late to wish you had spent more time teaching them.


Probably the hardest principle to teach a child in today's world is self-worth or self respect. While manners show respect for others self respect is about dignity. I do not like the word pride because, being prideful is not necessarily a good thing. Having dignity is not only good, it is essential for happiness. When a person has self-worth they do not put themselves in positions that will undermine their self worth. This is one of the great downfalls of today's society, we place so little value on ourselves.

By modeling self-worth parents teach children how having values and that living values is important. It doesn't mean that a parent or child won't make mistakes. Part of self-worth is owning up to your mistakes. Think of all the people you know who put the blame for their mistakes at the feet of others. Is that what you want your child to do? Worse yet, do you want your child to put the blame for their mistakes on YOU?

Teach them self-worth in their decisions. Teach them to look ahead to the consequences of their actions for themselves and others. Low self esteem creates a great deal of the worlds problems including alcoholism, unwanted pregnancy, and even suicide. Teaching self-worth means that if your child messes up you make them fix it. It means that if your child hurts someone you make them mend the relationship.

There is a manner of humility to having self-worth. Humility in realizing we are one person in big world. Humility in valuing others both emotionally and in our actions. To be humble is not simple, it is simply aware of others. A person can know they are a good person and still value other people as well.

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.

— Frederick Douglass

Work Ethic

Even if you come from a family with money a child should learn a good work ethic. It's interesting to know their was a time when people had children to work on the farm. Children gardened, raised live stock, and cleaned the home. Today few farm kids still exist. If you mentioned the idea of mucking out a horse stall to one of your kids, they would probably freak out. That said you can still teach a child a good work ethic.

Yard work and housework is for everyone, not just adults. My husband had his first paying job at an egg farm when he was 12, around that same age I started babysitting. The old adage "Give a man a fish feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and feed him for life" is true. At some point your child will be an adult and have to work. My kids helped with projects as well as having chores. My husband and I are both hard working, we worked along side our kids.

Would you like to know what happens when you do not teach a kid to work? As adults you kids will rely on you until you die. If you don't believe me go read the comments on the article I wrote titled "Adult-children when to help and when to let them learn". The stories parents tell on there will scare you to death.


Years ago I was dealing with a work issue that required me to appear in court. As I sat in the court room waiting for our case to be called, I watched people go before the judge. These cases involved drugs, drunk driving, theft, and violence. By the time our case was called I felt bad for the judge. Maybe all parents should spend a day with their kids in the court room and see what it looks like to have to pay society for a serious mistake.

There are natural consequences to our actions. Too often parents begin a pattern of shielding their children from the consequences. This shielding starts in grade school when a parent takes the child's side against a teacher. If you have an issue with your child's teacher, never let your child know. This undermines a teacher's ability to control your child in class and it sends your kid the message that they do not have to be respectful to the teacher.

My middle son was the class clown. He is super smart and easily bored. Years ago I got a call from his eighth grade English teacher. I could tell she was very upset and she didn't want to call me. My son was being disruptive in class. I could tell by her voice that he was out of control. I apologized to her for his behavior and told her that we do not allow disrespectful behavior in our home. I then asked her if she needed help after school.She was confused by my question. I clarified " We do not allow this type of behavior, he needs to make it up to you by doing chores next week after school, he can clean your chalkboards and scrape gum off desks, or whatever you need, he wasted your time, now you and have his time". When I tell you that my sons teacher was more than happy to comply with this punishment, it's an understatement. He spent an entire afternoon just scraping the gum of desks. Not only did he learn a lesson about behavior and consequences, he learned not to stick gum on desks.

The punishment should fit the crime. I'm not for public shaming. These situations are a teaching opportunity. Punishment should teach a child consequences for their specific actions. Consequences are the result of having to fix an error in judgement that lead to a problem. Just as in the story about my son, he had to make amends to his teacher.

Adults have natural consequences such as a natural consequence of being late to work is getting fired. A natural consequence of driving drunk is getting a DUI or getting in an accident. If you do not teach your child consequences for their actions, they will end up in jail/prison. We cannot do whatever we want in life without consequences, so teach them young or you will get to deal with their poor choices as an adult.

Age Appropriate

Part of my advice regarding age appropriate exposure comes from remembering my mentality as a child. There are certain things in which a child should not be exposed. Kids should not have to think about death, sex, or drugs. That would seem like a given, yet everyday in the United States a child is exposed to something that is out of their maturity level due to media intrusion.

Statistically the average child watches 28 hours of television a week. What are these kids watching? By the time a child finishes elementary school they have seen 8,000 murders on television (N. Herd, 2017). Since 1979 the amount of sexually explicit material on television (including commercials) has risen 270%. Now with the introduction of violent video games and the internet we can almost double these numbers in terms of exposure.That would be a lot for an adult.

How do you as a parent control the amount of violence and sexual material your children view? Cable boxes do contain parental controls. I'm against small children having a television in their rooms but, if you insist on putting one in there, set the parental controls to rated G. You will be surprised at how many channels this rating will block. For years we had both our living room and bedroom TV's set with strict parental controls.

Even a kid on a strict TV diet will go sneak a movie at a friends house. However, it will be the rare occasion instead of the norm. Why is this important? Well anyone who has stayed up until 1:00am trying to convince a kid that a monster isn't under the bed will agree. Children are easily traumatized, respect that about them.

In today's world children have the added threat of the internet. Prior to the age of 14, if you insist on giving a child a cell phone, make it a flip phone. They still have them (my mom has one). You should have parental controls on any device your child has access to in your home even after the age of 14. Why? 2,000 children are reported missing each day. While many of these abductions happen on the street, internet bait to sex trafficking rings are now a serious problem.

Children are somewhat naturally defiant, they are also trusting. You should know what your child is doing online. Social media pages are not a place for children. Here again, anyone under the age of 14 shouldn't be on Facebook, or Instagram, and certainly not on snap chat. When a child (14-17) creates these accounts a parent should be monitoring these accounts. By that I mean you should have the password. Know that these kids are not dumb, they create alternate accounts, talk to people they shouldn't, and view things they really shouldn't view.

That brings me to pornography. While many adults see pornography as a form of entertainment, it is not a form of entertainment for children. You wouldn't want your child to view a pornography magazine so why would it be ok, for them to watch sex on TV or the internet? It's not any different. I'm shocked at how many teen girls have seen 50 Shades of Gray or even some of the showtime series that constantly have sex scenes. What message are these sending your child? Ask yourself is it age appropriate and what is it telling your kid?

There is one more issue I have with media industries and that is the glorification of killing and criminal activity. As an adult you can watch a heist movie and objectively know that it is unrealistic. Children lack the discernment to know that this criminal behavior is being sensationalized for entertainment. I have had parents tell me that they use these shows as teaching opportunities, however even that has an age limit. You can tell a kid all day that gang violence is bad, its not going to change what they saw on a movie. I can remember boys in my neighborhood trying to blow stuff up because of a movie they watched. Ratings mean something.

The reality is that we should be upset when a person dies and losing ones virginity shouldn't happen at 13. Yet, as a society we are so desensitized to sex and violence that the weight of these situations isn't real anymore. There is plenty of time in life for a person to learn about these things. Let them be kids while they are kids.

Don't worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.

— Robert Fulgham

Family Traditions

Daily routines and family traditions create a foundation for children. The best routine I know of is sitting down to a family dinner every night at the kitchen table. This one routine is something that created a strong foundation for our family. It was a time to gather and learn about each other's day. These were times where cell phones were not allowed and televisions were off. Even as a single parent this was a routine with my kids.

We need things that are reliable in our homes. We need ways of connecting the family to bring values that are important into the lives of children. Another thing we did was family day. Family day was a day where we got in the car and went somewhere together. This was a weekend ritual that occurred at least once a month. Usually we explored the area within two hours of our home. When we were broke, we packed a meal to take with us. Today my kids remember these trips fondly. Whatever your traditions, make them manageable and consistent.

When Does It End?

How important is the time you spend with your child? Everyday kids are dropped off at day cares where they are learning who knows what for 8-9 hours. Every second you are away from your child, you are no longer in control of what they learn. Your values are not being reinforced during that time. As a parent you need to carefully weigh the risk of allowing an institution raise your child. We chose to work alternate shifts when my kids were young, however that can take a tole on a marriage as well. Every family is different in this respect. When it comes to deciding if you will stay home with your child, choose wisely. You have one shot at raising this kid.

Last year we became empty nesters. For 28 years we had children in our home, which at this point is more than half my life. Out of our nine children (six we took in ), and our three biological children, all nine are employed and self-supporting. We still have close relationships with them. After 28 years, it is quite the transition to it just being my husband and myself. Now I look back on the long days I put in with my kids and I know it was all worth it. It was worth it to not be bailing them out of jail or dealing with unwanted pregnancies. It is worth it when I can have meaningful conversations with my adult children and know they intelligent well adjusted people. Hopefully one day you will feel the same way. Stay strong.

© 2011 MD Jackson MSIOP


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