As parents, we might be asking "How do I develop in my child (below 6 years old) a sense of right and wrong?" or "What is acceptable and what is not acceptable?". FFL Council Member, Mrs Sarojini Padmanathan shares some methods to guide the child on what behaviour is acceptable and what is not. 

By Mrs Sarojini Padmanathan

Parents are most happy when their children listen to them, follow their instructions and carry them out perfectly.  This scenario may sound like the fairy tale that ends with “in the end they all lived happily ever after”.

In fact, we can work towards achieving better relationship with our children and teach them to understand what is acceptable and what is not. It can be easy if parents sincerely want to make an impact. The process requires parents to do the following:


Pinpoint what you would like the child to learn. There may be many instances when you noticed your child is happy playing with her toys but finds it a chore to pack it after doing so; or after eating a few mouthfuls, screaming at the dinner table, throwing food all over the place and playing with the cutleries.  Parents would say that is not right and unacceptable. It can be very frustrating to parents.


Once you have identified what is the one or two areas that you would like to work on, focus on paying attention to the habit or behaviour that you would like to correct. Be on it; do not bring in other areas that you would like to pay attention, unless it can be part of the process of teaching. For example, packing her toys after her playtime. Sit with her, showing her how to pack the toys. Which toy goes into which container etc. Let her show you if she has done the packing correctly. Go over the instructions with your child a number of times until she understands what is acceptable and what is not and how to carry out the instruction.  When she has done well, praise her for doing that activity.  Be specific in thanking her.  “Emma, that is the correct way of packing and I am happy that you can do so. Good job!”


In the example above of packing the toys after playtime, if she does not pack up, repeat the instruction and tell her in a calm clear voice. Do not order or demand that she packs up immediately or she will face serious consequences! Rather than focusing on how unacceptable her behaviour is, it would help if parents can repeat the instruction and get her to carry out the instruction.  If she is not able to do so, show her once more.  Correcting mistakes immediately would help the child to learn faster and reduce the chance for throwing temper tantrums.


The activity of packing the toys after playtime, by now, should have become a routine.  In the event that she refuses to pack, say the instruction once more. After a short pause,  repeat the instruction.  Should she defy, then it would be time to take corrective action.  Separate the child from the situation for a short while telling her that she has not obeyed the instructions and that she will be have to be quite for a short while.  After a couple of minutes, bring the child back to the activity and get her to complete packing the toys.  Once the child has packed it, praise her for cooperating and thank her.

The above described method helps to enable the parent to be in charge, guide the child on what is acceptable, and correct the unacceptable behaviour immediately and with good results too.  Misbehaviour can be reduced and more cooperation can be demonstrated.

This process can also be applied to situations where parents would like the child to speak the truth, cooperate with siblings and friends etc. Children below the age of 6 years can be guided to have a good relationship with family members, and after all, living happily ever after, need not be a myth.