How to help your children actually WANT to do the right thing

Do you worry that your child only does what is right out of obligation, and only when you are around? How do we ensure that children develop their own inner compass and their own sense of right and wrong?

Here are five ways which you can help children actually want to do the right thing, whether a parent or other authority figure is there or not.

Connect with them

Like, really connect. Before expecting your child to choose to cooperate with you out of their own will, make sure that you are connected with them. It can be the simplest things that help you make these connections. And it’s easy to forget that they might feel disconnected from you even if you love and think about them all the time. The main reason for a child not wanting to follow your good example is because they feel somewhat disconnected to you. Disconnection can come from you not being completely present with your child, even if you are around them all the time! Why not sit with them for 15 minutes per day and be fully present?

Set realistic and attaintable limits

Are the expectations and limits that you have for your child age-appropriate for them? Are they reachable? Setting limits that are too difficult to reach can knock their progress and make them wonder why they even try to do the right thing. To avoid this, set smaller goals that you know they won’t find too challenging to accomplish. Allow them to build confidence and develop an understanding of what it actually means to do the right thing.

Don’t punish or shame them for mistakes

Something which too often slips parent’s minds is that punishment does not teach a child acountability. Often we think that punishment or lecturing will help our child to realise that what they did was wrong. When we punish or lecture, it is likely that our child will focus on how unfair we are, or how awful and useless they are, rather than actually learning from the mistake they made. If they already feel guilty for something they have done and that they know was wrong, then this will be a lesson in itself.

Encourge and support

They aren’t going to get it right every time, so be patient. Continue to encourage them positively, and support them in the areas which you see they struggle most. Provide them with a safe and non-judgemental space to explain how they feel about what happened, and focus on what they could do differently next time. Some alternative phrases to affirm and support instead of humiliate and lecture can be found here.

Encourage showing emotions

If you tell them that the emotions they are feeling or expressing are bad, then they will believe that what they feel is not valid. It will bring you closer in your relationship and you they will feel more relaxed and connected to you. Making a child feel like they feelings are valid is essential, and this will come naturally from your encouragement and support along their journey in developing a sense of right and wrong.


Here at The Nanny Line, our nannies are all trained in dealing with tricky situations and difficult behaviour. They know how to apply empathy and support when necessary, in order to help your child along their journey into becoming the best person that they can be.

Do you have any other advice for other parents? Let us know what you think in the comments, we always want to hear from you!


Written by Kelly Lindsey Abel.

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