As a parent, your goal is to guide your child’s moral development alongside his or her intellectual and physical milestones. Parents who raise their children with organized religion often turn to their religious teachings for spiritual guidance and growth while less devout parents often look toward secular philosophies and their own moral sense to instill values in their children.

For many families, empathy and generosity are key values. Empathy is the ability to understand and relate to another individual’s feelings and generosity is the quality of drawing upon one’s resources to provide for others. When an individual volunteers in his or her community or donates to a charitable organization, he or she embodies these values together for the benefit of others.

You might sometimes wonder if you are doing all that you can to instill good values in your children. You and your child’s other parent are his or her main role models. It is up to you to facilitate his or her spiritual development as he or she develops his or her moral compass. Consider using the following strategies to help your child develop strong values.

Model Empathy and Generosity

Children learn by following their parents’ example. Model the behavior that you want your children to learn and give him or her the opportunity to ask questions and get involved. If you regularly volunteer at your local soup kitchen, bring your child so he or she can see what you do there and how you help the people who come for meals. He or she can also help you by sorting donations and shopping for the food bank when you are at the grocery store.

Talk About The Ways You Help Others

Make generosity an ongoing subject of discussion in your house. Young children can understand how they can help others by donating and volunteering and adolescents can grasp more complex topics, such as ways they can work to prevent homelessness and other social issues. When you do not have an answer for your child’s question, research it together. Show your child that you never stop learning and that the internet and books can be wonderful tools for finding answers to your questions.

Discuss Themes of Generosity and Empathy in The Media You Consume

Make it a point to talk about the books your child reads and the movies you watch together. Discuss the ways the characters handle conflict and the ways they treat each other with empathy and show generosity. Consider reading children’s classics like The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein to your child or reading Three Cups of Tea by David Oliver Relin and Greg Mortenson with your teen and discussing its message.

The values that an individual develops as a child often stay with him or her for life. Be sure that your child learns positive values and understands the importance of doing the right thing. By living according to your personal values, you can be your child’s greatest moral influence. Talk to your partner about doing the same – raising your child is a team effort.