Help your kids grow beyond a mentality of majority rules. Understand that, at stage four of moral development, people are motivated by respect for the law and what seems normal. Challenge them to seek experiences that stretch their faith rather than just pursuing fun. For example, encourage them to use their talents to serve their community in a useful way rather than simply using their free time for recreation. Invest in their spiritual training, such as by signing them up for camps and conferences that help them apply biblical principles in their lives. Pursue spiritual growth yourself so you’ll have integrity in your kids’ eyes. Encourage them to engage the culture around them. Teach them how to think critically so they can thoughtfully analyze media they read, watch, and listen to in light of a biblical worldview.

Help your kids understand self-evident truths. Understand that, at stage five of moral development, people are motivated by whether or not something is the right thing to do. Rejoice when your kids arrive at this stage, because it means they realize that decisions aren’t all about them, or even all about them and other people – they are bigger than that. At this stage, kids know that good decisions are those that truly please God. Talk with your kids about why you reject two concepts that are popular in our current culture (that there is no absolute truth, and that man is basically good and therefore doesn’t need God). Let your children watch you make decisions so they can see how the process of seeking God’s wisdom and trusting Him works. Make sure that what you believe is truly reflected in how you act. Regularly discuss what’s going on in the news and in your kids’ everyday lives and talk together about why certain behaviors are right or wrong.

Help your kids embrace love and truth. Understand that, at stage six (the final stage of moral development), people are motivated by a desire to express ultimate love and truth. Help your kids understand that truth without love is useless, and love without truth is dysfunctional – so real truth and love must always be connected to each other. Check your motives when you’re making your own decisions to make sure you’re dealing with the truth of the situation (confronting sin), yet also looking for an opportunity to express God’s love within the situation. Whether your kids are dealing with a crisis or a routine situation, encourage them to pray about it so they’ll be able to handle it in faith rather than fear. Give your kids what they need – not necessarily what they want. Whenever they misbehave, don’t just punish them without also doing all you can to help them. Let them know they can always count on you to help them keep growing. Celebrate as they reach new levels of maturity!

Adapted from Parenting the Heart of Your Child: Teaching Your Kids to Make Good Decisions, copyright 2005 by Diane Moore. Published by Bethany House Publishers (a division of Baker Publishing Group), Minneapolis, Mn.,

Diane Moore is executive director for Healthy Families International, a teaching, coaching, and resource organization for parents. A popular speaker, she loves to share Parenting the Heart of Your Child principles with both parents and students in a variety of settings. She also provides family crisis counseling as a certified family life educator. Diane, her husband, and their three almost-grown children live near Portland, Or.