I am trying to teach my 3-year-old son good values, but at the same time we don't live these values in reality. For example, I am teaching him to be nice to everyone, while being nice, in reality, means he will get exploited by other people. What should I do?

  • 1
    Hi Thomas -- I'd start by remembering that being polite and showing respect and being personally honest are not the same as being nice. Kindness is a good trait, but it is fair to say that kindness can really only be shared when we are mature enough to make decisions. I'd think about a pet. Even caring for a goldfish may teach kindness and responsibility in a nonthreatening way to your little guy.
    – WRX
    Apr 7, 2017 at 12:11

2 Answers 2


If you are trying to teach certain ideals but aren't living them yourselves, your child will soon pick up on that, and will - I guarantee you - at some point throw that in your face, much to your embarrassment. Kids learn more from what they see you doing than from what you say.

How you really behave is in accordance with your true values. If you aren't nice to everyone, then it's not really valuable to you. Think deeply about your behavior and why you do what you do. If you believe you're correct, teach those values. If you believe you're actually in the wrong, change your behavior.

In the meantime, we all slip up. Apologize to everyone involved, and explain to your son why what you did was wrong. Let him see you trying to do better. Forgiveness is just as important to teach as that we all make mistakes and we should strive to do our best even if we sometimes fail.

Being exploited by others isn't the end of the world if you realize what's happening and you choose to allow it. But if you want to avoid that, start teaching your child about healthy boundaries early on. In many circumstances, it's ok - and even important - to say "no", for example.

Boundaries are foreign to too many people. Teaching healthy boundaries and practicing them yourselves will be an enormous gift to your child.

  • 1
    I wonder if the OP meant 'we' in the 'all of us' sense, rather than his family specifically. His concern is about the world at large not being a very kind place. (I've been wrong before!)
    – WRX
    Apr 7, 2017 at 14:31
  • @Willow - I don't know! I hope the OP will explain if that is the case. Apr 7, 2017 at 14:36
  • It is difficult to balance what we personally think is the right way to behave when others are not on the same page. I held a door open for a man with a cane today and he was so rude! It won't change who I am, but wow -- it does make me wonder at times.
    – WRX
    Apr 7, 2017 at 14:46

What? You shouldn't be "nice" to everyone. You should

  1. Treat everyone with respect
  2. Insist on being treated respectfully and justly
  3. Maintain the highest level of integrity

Do not attempt to teach your children an inconsistent value system. All you would teach them thereby is dishonesty.

  • What if others dont show respect? What if he get bully by others? Should I teach him to fight back or be nice and say no? Apr 7, 2017 at 12:23
  • 1
    Neither. Teach him to stand his ground but use violence only as a last resort. Apr 7, 2017 at 12:36

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