The effects of values education from a very young age have been a hotly researched topic for many decades in the fields of education and psychology, with the idea that if a child is educated to behave in certain socially acceptable ways, they grow up to be successful, productive members of society. Children need to be guided by adults in order to lead successful lives, and good role models and a good childhood environment are of paramount importance. Psychologists have studied the phenomena of nature versus nurture for many centuries, and have noted that nurture can be incredibly important in how children behave as they grow older. IQ studies have shown that in children, factors in childcare—nutrition, intellectual stimulation—also have nearly as much of an effect on IQ as genetics. Many case studies of criminals have shown that their childhoods tend to be turbulent in some way, whether from growing up in high-crime locations, or having distant, cold parents, which affects their mental development negatively. It is therefore on a child’s role models, parents, teachers and older siblings, to help them learn how to live good lives.
Ethical behavior is learned, not hereditary, and it is necessary for adults to teach children how to behave. Group discussions, stories, or even explaining to the child why they need to behave in a certain way can be effective, but it is also extremely important that you, as their role model and a person whom they emulate, also behave in the right ways. Teaching a child not to swear, but then using those same words in a conversation with another adult for example, shows the child that those moral lessons are not important enough for an adult to follow. Values education then becomes a holistic approach to teaching a child how to behave around others and in society.
Simple reciprocity methods such as sharing food, toys, and other things with friends that have tangible benefits to being nice to others can help start things along. Having established this practical base, it is easier then, to teach a child more abstract concepts as they grow older. Children are eager to learn, and it is very easy to mold their behavior through their life experiences, and imitated actions, and when educational institutes and other role models take an active part in inculcating these values, it can have a profound beneficial effect on society.