Why Do Right?

Teenage Boy In Bedroom
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“Why?”

Probably the most common — and often most difficult—questions kids ask of parents begin with this word. When concerning moral choices, the question may come up often because the easy response — requiring kids to simply obey their parents and God — does not always satisfy their curiosity. Why should I obey?

Besides being pleasing to God, moral choices are good for us. Here are a few ways you can demonstrate this to your kids:

Moral choices shape our future

 When I was younger, a mentor said to me, “The choices you make today determine the person you will become tomorrow.” He was right. Daily choices build the foundation of character, and at any moment in our lives, our ability to make good choices is influenced by our previous choices. Kids can see the truth in this principle. Ask them to think of a poor choice they’ve made in their lives, whether treating someone unkindly or skirting around a school rule. Then ask whether it was easier or more difficult to make a similar choice the next time. If they’re being honest, they’ll likely admit that the second time was easier than the first. But it works both ways! It becomes easier to do the right thing the more often we do it. This is the process through which we build character.

Moral principles protect us

 My dad told me a story once about a young man named Greg who lived near a family with a big swimming pool. Late one evening, Greg and his girlfriend snuck into this neighbor’s yard and into the pool area, ignoring the signs that read, “Do not enter.” Greg dove into the concrete pool, but it had been recently drained for painting, and his dive ended with a sickening crunch of bones, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. Greg had ignored the fence and the warning signs, thinking they were just there to prevent him from having fun.

Explain to your kids that God’s moral principles are not designed to steal our fun, but to protect us, and when we ignore these boundaries, the cost can be painful. Even an “easy” sin like lying can have consequences, since when we lie, we lose the trust of others and taint our reputation.

Moral truths provide a path for us

Have you ever taken your kids to one of those life-sized mazes at a fair or amusement park? When I was younger, I tried to find my way through such a maze. I wandered back and forth from one dead end to another. Looking up at my dad, who was watching me navigate the maze from above the walls, I remember wishing I had his enlightened perspective. It would be so easy, I thought, if I could just see the whole maze!

Remind your children that God does see it all. The Creator of the universe has the highest vantage point for our lives, and He can see through the moral maze of life so much better than we can. He has seen it all before, and His principles are meant to keep us from running into dead ends. They are truly a light to our path (Psalm 119:105).

Moral choices help us reach others

 When I was a senior in high school, I received a phone call I will never forget. Tim, a junior at my school, called me to talk about an incident from school that day. I won’t go into all the details, only to say that Tim was thankful that I’d treated him kindly, and he wondered why I’d done so. I was actually shocked to hear this. Tim seemed like such a “hard” kid—why would he care what I said or thought? But what really broke my heart was that I didn’t have the courage to discuss my faith with him. He had recognized a difference in me, but I wasn’t bold enough to introduce him to that difference.

The incident taught me a powerful lesson, one that I’m thankful to be able to share with my kids today: People really do notice how we live our lives. Even the “hardest” people are searching for belonging, and they are observing the choices we make. Scripture instructs us to set the example for other people because that is exactly what God has done for us. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:1-2).

True, when we imitate Christ — when we walk in love and kindness toward others — people may not always notice. But many times they will.

This article first appeared in the October/November 2013 digital edition of Thriving Family magazine. Portions of this article were adapted from Ethix: Being bold in a whatever world by Sean McDowell. Used with permission of B&H Publishing Group. If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family's marriage and parenting magazine. Get it delivered to your home by subscribing to it for a gift of any amount.

Copyright © 2013 by Sean McDowell. Used by permission.

Next in this Series: How to Encourage Your Kids to Do What’s Right

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