Teach Ethical & Moral Values: Reducing Negative Peer Pressure for School Age Children

The third tip for parents in reducing school age children’s negative peer pressure is teaching ethical and moral values that will last their children a lifetime. 1

Code of Ethics

As a college child development professor my students wrote their own code of ethics. What ethics and moral values do you live by? What character traits do you desire for your children to emulate? Your children are already learning your values and ethics by observing what you say and what you do. Do they match?

Your Children’s Values

Then consider what you consciously want them to learn. When our girls were little we began reading stories based on character traits, such as honesty, courage, and responsibility. Learning about values continues through elementary school, especially as children study historical figures.

Ethical Dilemmas

When school age children are faced with ethical dilemmas such as lying to keep from getting in trouble or telling the truth, what will they do? What about cheating or letting a friend “copy” his/her homework? Many children perceive what adults may call cheating as “helping out their friends.”


Some families rely on Biblical principles or religious beliefs for teaching morals, values and ethics.  For example, what’s the difference between right and wrong? Our society teaches moral relativism. An Old Testament Proverb says, “It is by his deeds that a lad distinguishes himself if his conduct is pure and right. 2

Saying, “No.”

The fourth tip is setting limits that tell your children you care enough about them to say “no.” 1 In an increasing permissive society, saying, “No,” is often the exception. Parents can help their children refuse negative peer pressure by establishing rules that are followed regularly. Setting boundaries helps your children learn how to set boundaries with their friends.

Know Children’s Friends

The fifth parental tip for helping school age children reduce negative peer pressures is get to know your children’s friends. Encourage your children to invite friends over to play. Let them hang out with your family in your home or attend activities together. Observe how they influence each other. This will help you learn about your children as well as their friends.


Appropriate adult involvement and supervision are important. “Strong parental presence has a protective effect against peer pressure…when children are appropriately supervised by adults, and adults are actively involved in their lives, both at a physical and emotional level, they are less susceptible to peer pressure.” 3

Open Your Home

Commit to keeping your home open, no matter what your children “drag” home. I’d much rather know the friends my children are drawn to and learn what’s behind their wild hair or outrageous clothing than make assumptions. Many nice kids are hidden behind these exteriors. Implementing these three tips gives parents more tools for helping their school age children reduce negative peer pressure.



  1. Adolescent Rebellion Can be Quelled, kidsgrowth.com/resources/articledetail. 
  2. New American Standard Bible, Proverbs 20:21
  3. Peer Pressure: Why it seems worse than ever and how to help kids resist it, Malia Jacobson, August 29, 2013, www.parentmap.com
  4. Image: ethics-2110583_1280 [Pixabay.com]

Seriously, the Phone Book?

“Seriously Mom. You’re going to use the phone book?” While contemplating the Yellow Pages’ value, my daughter types in Papa Murphy’s, our zip code, and locates a coupon…all on line. In seconds, she’s ordering our garlic chicken pizza and cookie dough. I’m still wondering where I left my phone.

“My six-week-old granddaughter is going to grow up without knowing about phone books,” I mutter.

“When she’s older, she can use it as a booster seat,” my daughter jokes, trying to make me feel better.

I don’t feel any better. How different will my grandchildren’s lives be from mine? How different than their parents’ lives? My two-year-old granddaughter has a “game” on her Grams’ phone, a recent Child Development Professor. “How did I allow that? That’s not developmentally appropriate,” I chastise myself.

Yesterday my four-year old grandson inquired, “Grams, where’s the video?” as I strap him in his car seat.

“Gram’s car doesn’t have one. We can talk,” I proudly reply.

Moment’s later my daughter directs me to Kylie Ann’s one month photos. “Just use the mouse and click on each photo,” she explains.

“It won’t work on the glass.”

“Just use the phone book,” she chuckles. “Now there’s a use for your phone book.”

For a minute, I feel a little better. My phone book is still useful!

I return to my thoughts. My grandchildren won’t even know that phone books existed. What a different world they’ll live in; probably just as different as my childhood was from my great grandparents’ childhood. They didn’t know what telephone phone books were either.


Image source: old-phone-3077296_[Pixabay.com]


Adolescents are Like Blossoms

Blossoms, blossoms, blossoms. Everywhere I look I see delicate buds bursting into full bloom. Pink blossoms appear surreal against the blue sky. White blossoms cover the ground like snow. No matter the color they’re simply stunning.20160221_161122

When I drive my car or ride my bike alongside miles of blooming trees they seem to blend together and appear the same. But on closer look the trees are not alike. Yes, they may be all almond trees or cherry trees, but the trees display differences.

When I take snapshots of blossoming trees at stoplights or jump off my bike to photograph a glimpse of spring I can clearly see the differences. My macro lens captures God’s minuet blossom designs.

Blossom Differences

Some trees are loaded with blossoms. It appears spring arrived early for these trees laden with heavy braches. I imagine the trees producing an abundance of food.

And then there are the ordinary or typical blossoming trees. They aren’t loaded with blossoms. Evidence of blossoms appears on most every branch. I’m not an agriculturalist, but I imagine some might say, “This is what normal almond trees [or cherry trees] look like.”

20150228_105627Perhaps other trees were notified late that spring is here. Their branches are just beginning to display sporadic blossom clusters. Eventually the tree will become full of blooms, just later than the already fully blooming trees.

Types of Adolescent Blossoms

These three types of blossoming trees remind me of adolescents’ physical development. Some adolescents blossom early. They’re in full bloom long before their peers. Some happily bloom, while others bemoan their early blossoms.

And then there are adolescents whose blossoms are not abundant nor are they just beginning to bloom. Their blossoms match growth charts for typical or normal development.

Finally, there are adolescents who bloom much later than their peers. While some peers are in full bloom these adolescents are just peeking at adolescence. They are just beginning to bloom which is why they’re often called late bloomers.

Parents and Their Blossoming Kids

How do parents cope with their blossoming adolescents? My husband and I are among the few parents who looked forward to our daughters’ adolescence. We both possess years of experience with youth and understand that adolescence is synonymous with change, not only for adolescents but for parents as well. Watching our daughters bloom into who God created them to be provided countless milestones to celebrate with them.

Fear and Dread

However, the majority of parents dread their child’s adolescence like the plague. Parents say, “I’m scared. I hear so many horror stories. I wish I could just protect them and keep them little.”

Realizing they can’t keep their kids from growing up, they believe they can deter challenges by keeping their kids super busy. Their reasoning is, “If my kids’ days are spent doing homework, club activities and playing sports they can avoid pitfalls and negative influences.”


A small group of parents are extremely uncomfortable with their adolescents’ physical changes and respond by over-controlling everything their child does. They fear potential possibilities, like choosing sexual activity, becoming pregnant or getting someone pregnant, or getting an incurable STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection). In reality this strategy often backfires resulting in more challenges than if they’d helped their kids face adolescence in a healthy way.


Parents who are overly religious or ultra conservative are particularly susceptible to making sexual development seem evil, and sex as something to avoid. They treat the naughty topic as a hush-hush. But today’s 21st century kids know better than that.20160221_161102

God’s Ideal

The ideal is for adolescents to be aware of their maturing sexuality, to feel good about it, and to gradually develop meaningful relationships with the other sex. They need to know that their body changes are a gift from God that will ultimately culminate in sexual intimacy with their future spouse.

Suggestions for Parents

Here are some suggestions to help parents positively deal with adolescents’ changing physical development. Parents need to provide accurate information before adolescents begin blossoming. If parents renege on this responsibility, what will children learn from others? Will it represent parents’ values and beliefs?

Adolescents need assurance that their changing bodies are a “normal” part of growing up. They need encouragement and freedom to talk about their changing bodies, express their fears and ask questions. If parents aren’t available, where will they find answers and acceptance?

Parents may become paler than the white spring blossoms if they dare to bring up the subject of body changes. They may blush the color of pink blossoms. But it’s not too late to accurately teach pre-adolescents about their changing bodies. No one can communicate the information with their values as well as parents.

Helpful Resources

Fortunately, there are many resources for parents who are uncomfortable or uncertain about how to approach their children’s physical development. For help on teaching healthy sexual development refer to my resource list for both adolescents and parents at http://fromdiaperstodiamonds.com/writing/resources/.



Save, Share, Spend & Other Money Matters

“Can I get a candy bar?”

“Can I have some money to buy a hot dog at the baseball snack shack?”

“Can you buy me …..?”

Things Cost Money

Do you recognize these pleas for spending your money? In thinking about what money skills young people will need to live independently, the school age years are ideal for teaching about money management.

At an early age, children learn that things they want cost money. They know what dollar bills in a birthday card are for. In elementary school, usually during second grade, children learn the different types of money and how to make change. Some children spend their money immediately, while others save it for something they really want.

Share, Save, Spend

To encourage money management, saving, and giving, we gave each child three baby food jars marked with the words Share, Save, and Spend. Our daughters received a small allowance every Friday that they could spend on whatever they wanted after they put a dime for each dollar in the save jar, and a dime for each dollar in the share jar.

Ways to Share

As church attendees we wanted our daughters to learn about sharing with others. Sometimes they gave their “Share” money during a Sunday school class or to a special project, like the Angel Tree project for Christmas gifts for children with incarcerated parents.

Vacation Money

Another way we taught our girls about money was on family vacations. We provided meals for them, but we gave them a specific amount of money in an envelope for each day. The money was to cover the cost of snacks and souvenirs. This truly saved us money instead of paying for a snack, then another snack, then a souvenir, then another souvenir, etc.

Sometimes they saved up several days to buy something they really wanted. We also discovered that there were happier to eat snacks we’d brought along instead of using “their money” to buy snacks.

Modeling Money Choices

Most importantly, money management needs to be modeled by you. If you want your children to save and share with others, they need to see you doing likewise. If you want them spending money responsibly on vacation, let them watch you doing the same. With money matters, much is “caught.” Let your children catch you being a wise steward of the finances entrusted to you.

Resources: www.sharesavespend.com; www.threejars.com

image Source: piggy bank [stockvault.net]



Dependence to Independence

Your blotchy, wrinkled newborn baby lays in your arms. Quickly forgotten is the pain of childbirth and angry threats, “I’m never having sex again.”
“He’s got your eyes,” coos daddy.
“We’ll be the best parents ever,” mommy tiredly suggests.
Your newborn or adopted child is a gift from God. And this gift is 100% dependent on you – the parent. The newborn needs you for everything: feeding, diapering, burping, rocking, holding, more feeding, more diapering. You capture all the “firsts” in pictures. As junior takes his first steps away from you, he is gaining independence.  You cry on her first day of kindergarten, certain that she will always be your little girl.
That is, until the day hormones kick in and your child retorts, “You can’t make me.” Your son begins middle school. Your daughter wants a strapless dress for 8th grade graduation. You comfort yourself that you still have four more years of high school. But the years continue to fly by even faster, and your young adult daughter or son stands at the threshold of adulthood crossing the graduation stage with diploma in hand.
With tear filled eyes and pride swelling in your heart, you wonder, “Did I prepare him? Does she know how much I love her? Will he remember the importance of God in his life? Will she become successful?”
The answer to those questions actually began before birth.
  • What was your purpose and goals as parents?
  • What plans did you make to help your son launch into adulthood?
  • What skills would your daughter need to live independently?
Remember that 100% dependent newborn? Imagine that at age eighteen, your child is leaving the nest for college or vocational training, is serving our country, or becomes employed and is beginning to live on his/her own. Consider that 18-year-old 100% “independent.” Some young people will leave their homes earlier, while others leave later. However, for this example, if we use age 18, that means that at age nine, your child is 50% on his way to independence. At age 13 1/2, your teenager is 75% independent from you. Sound scary?
It is, unless you plan ahead and intentionally prepare your son or daughter to enter adulthood. Our intentional parenting purpose was, “To raise our children to live independently, become a contributing member of society, and love & serve the Lord.” Every parenting decision made was aimed toward that goal.
Whether your child is young or already a teenager, it is not too late to determine your parenting goal or philosophy. What’s your parenting purpose?   


Image Source: event graduation tassell [pxhere.com]


First Grade New to Kinders: Parent Action Tips, Part 2

New: Classroom Environment Changes

Melissa Washington, a 26-year kindergarten and first grade teacher in San Juan Capistrano, California, says, “Most kindergarten classes are kept separate in a more protected environment. They have a larger, self-contained classroom, including a bathroom, with access to a gated playground often shared with preschoolers.” 1

Parent Action Tip: Towards the end of kindergarten, stop by a first-grade classroom and let your child see the room arrangement. Point out differences. For example, “Look, you’ll have a desk and a chair. Your desk has storage room for your own items, like your pink hair brush and your favorite smelly markers.”

New: Increased Academics

Washington says, “There’s a big change academically. Kindergarten learning focuses on phonics, learning to identify all letters of the alphabet and their sounds and phonemic awareness. First grade reading focuses on fluency and comprehension.” 1

Parent Action Tip: As parents become more aware of academic expectations, Washington suggests, “Instead of drilling your child on facts, focus on learning through play. Make up rhyming words. Rhyming lays a foundation for stronger readers. Keep books in the car and waterproof books in the bathtub.”  1

Parent Action Tip: Washington adds, “Continue reading to your children. Make reading books so special that books become just as exciting as toys. Help them discover that they can learn anywhere, not just at school. Let them collect flowers or seeds and help choose apples at the market.” 1

New: First Graders Learn to Work Together, Listen and Respond

Washington says, “Parents often come in worried about their own child.”1 She tells parents, “It isn’t just about your child. Children coming from kindergarten start to learn that ‘The world does not revolve around them.’ While kindergartens may have a hard time working with more than one other person, first graders learn team work to make a better school community and a better world.”

Parent Action Tip: Blogger Padma of The Teacher’s Digest says, “Children in first grade are at a critical stage wherein they are learning to hold longer conversations.”2 She suggests having longer conversations with your children, using bigger words, and asking them for their opinions. This will encourage your children to speak up more in class and share their ideas and opinions.

New: More Children, Less Help

Many school districts attempt to place fewer children in kindergarten than in other grades. Kindergarten teachers often have more parent/adult volunteers than other grades. More children in the class and fewer volunteers means less one-on-one time and less nurturing from the teacher.

Parent Action Tip: Your children will need to adjust to less one-on-one assistance from an adult. When your children get stuck at home, encourage them to try and see if they can figure it out themselves. This builds self-confidence. At school, encourage them to try on their own first. Then suggest they ask a table partner for help or look at the directions on the dry erase board.

Parent Action Tip: Try to occasionally volunteer in your child’s classroom. Some employers provide time off from work so parents can volunteer at school or chaperone field trips. Offer to help with a project at home such as labeling file folders or preparing supplies for an activity.

With a better understanding of what’s “new” to first graders and trying some parent action tips, before you know it first grade will not feel so “new” to both you and your child.

That is until your child is a “new” second grader!



  1. Phone interview with Melissa Washington, 1st grade teacher in San Juan Capistrano, California on June 8, 2018.
  2. 5 Ways to Ease the Transition from Kindergarten to First Grade by Padma on July 18, 2014. http://theteachersdigest.com/5-ways-to-ease-the-transition-from-kindergarten-to-first-grade/
  3. Image: board [pxfuel.com_en_free-photo-xzbqq]

First Grade New to Kinders: Parent Action Tips, Part 1

My grandson, Parker, couldn’t wait to become a first grader. “Jacob says we get more recesses.”

I try shedding reality. “But you’ll be in school longer.”

“But I’ll have more recesses.” His third-grade friend trumps Grams.

After starting first grade Parker excitedly informs me, “I have recess after breakfast, in the morning, at lunch, and in the afternoon. I have four recesses.” What could be more important?

Your kindergartener is probably just as excited about going to first grade. I’m thrilled my grandson felt confident and ready, however, there were several aspects of first grade that were vastly different and “new” to him as he transitioned from kindergarten.

Here’s what may be “new” in your child’s first grade class, and parent action tips you can implement to help your child adjust quicker.

New: First Graders Attend School All Day

Many schools offer the typical half-day morning or afternoon kindergarten. If your child attended full-day kindergarten, the children typically have a rest time in the afternoon. Denise Giardi, a 20-year veteran first grade teacher at John Muir Elementary in Modesto, California says, “Half-day to full-day is the biggest hurdle, especially the first trimester. I often see tears in the afternoon. Children are tired, and they miss their mommies.” 1

Parent Action Tip: The Labor of Love blog suggests, “To help make the transition to first grade easy, you should try to wean your child from naps at the beginning of the summer before the start of school.” 2 About two weeks before school begins, start getting your child to bed earlier until he adjusts to a longer day.

New: Testing the Waters on the “Big” Playground

Not only do first graders have more recesses, they play on the big kid equipment instead of a protected area designated for pre-school and/or kindergarten. Giardi says, “Children are used to their kindergarten teacher supervising recess time. Even children who typically follow the rules may surprise their parents with playground mishaps. Since their teacher isn’t on the playground, they think they don’t have to follow the rules. They don’t understand that the yard duty monitors are the ‘teachers’ now.” 1

Parent Action Tip: After school, take your child to the big kid playground. Let her explore the new equipment. While playing, explain how things will be different. For example, “Your teacher won’t be with you during recess when you’re in first grade. The grown-ups who will be watching you are called yard duty monitors. You’ll need to listen to them and follow the rules just like you did when your teacher was with you. I know you’ll enjoy the bigger playground.”

New: Eat Lunch at School

Parker was used to eating a snack during the morning recess. It’s lunch that was the challenge. He was so excited for lunch recess, he barely ate.

Parent Action Tip: Check if your child’s school requires students to stay at the cafeteria tables at least ten minutes before dismissal. If not, suggest it. Most kids will eat if they can’t leave. Otherwise, your first grader may not be eating much or skipping lunch all together.

Parent Action Tip: Share your expectations for eating lunch. For example, “Eat half your sandwich and your sliced apples before you go to lunch recess. You can eat your granola bar during afternoon recess.” Periodically check-in with your child and see how lunch is going.

Be sure to read part 2 of this blog next week.


  1. Phone interview with Denise Giardi, 1st grade teacher at John Muir Elementary, Modesto City Schools in Modesto, California on May 21, 2018.
  2. How Can We Make The Transition to First Grade Easy?       http://www.thelaboroflove.com/articles/how-can-we-make-the-transition-to-first-grade-easy
  3. Image: rank-5980089_1280 [Pixabay.com]

Prevention Strategy #7: Focus on Behavior, Rather Than the Child

Avoid trying to change behavior by methods that may lead to loss of self-respect, such as shame.

Attack Bullying Aggression Blame Shame

“Shaming makes the child wrong for feeling, wanting or needing something,” says Robin Grille and Beth Macgregor, authors of “Good” Children – at What Price? The Secret Cost of Shame.(1)

Shame Defined

A painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety; a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute. Synonyms: contritenesscontritionguiltpenitenceregretremorse, remorsefulness, repentancerue, and self-reproach. (2) Messages which focus on “You always . . .” or “You never . . .” may be perceived by a child as attacking and critical. They tend to produce feelings of guilt and shame and can ultimately result in lowering a child’s self-esteem.

Incorrect Responses

  • “You’re acting like such a baby.”
  • “You’re such a naughty kid.”
  • “Big boys don’t cry.”
  • “This is the worst behaved class at lunch today.”
  • “You’d lose your head if it weren’t glued on!”

 Focus on Behavior

Eliminate destructive gestures, expressions, negative tone of voice, shameful words, negative labels, and unfriendly body language.  “When caregivers focus on a student’s behavior, rather than on a student’s character, it preserves student’s integrity and offers positive guidance for learning.”(3) Help students find self-respect. “I believe in me.”

Incorrect and Correct Response

  • Rather than “You should be ashamed you took Sam’s ball.”
  • Say, “When you take the ball, it makes Sam angry.”
  • Rather than: “You’re a naughty boy.”
  • Say, “It’s not safe to climb on tables. Sit on the bench.”

What are ways you can avoid shaming your child?



  1. Grille, Robin and Beth Macgregor, “Good” Children – at What Price? The Secret Cost of Shame, https://www.naturalchild.org/articles/robin_grille/good_children.html
  2. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/shame
  3. Guiding Children’s Behavior. Island Health. August 2014. https://www.islandhealth.ca/sites/default/files/2018-04/guiding-childrens-behaviour.pdf
  4. Image: Attack-Bullying-Aggression-Blame-Shame-2087867 [maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com]

Prevention Strategy #6: Offer Choices

Choices are Legitimate

With increasing maturity should come increasing choices. Being able to make decisions helps develop maturity but be sure the decisions are within the limits of the children’s capacities and experience. Children should be able to participate, individually and collectively, in making decisions. Remember not to ask open ended choices that a child doesn’t really have any control over. For example, we don’t ask children if they want to wear a coat outside when it’s 30 degrees.

Incorrect Questions

  • Do you want a drink?
  • Do you want to do your homework?

When to Use Choices

Use choices only when you’re prepared to let the child choose and follow through Here’s how. “Here are your choices. Would you like (choice A) or (choice B)? You decide.” As children get older they can choose from more options.

Correct Questions

  • Do you want white milk or chocolate milk?
  • Do you want to do your homework before or after your snack?

What choices could you offer your child?


Image Source: Stick_figure_choice [wikimediacommons.org]