Teaching Children How to Be Good Citizens

Young boy shaking hands with a wheelchair-bound veteran

Teaching children how to be good citizens starts at home. Help your child learn examples of good citizenship through chores, books, and volunteering.

What Does It Mean to Be a Good Citizen?

At Bright Horizons, our Toward a Better World curriculum focuses on the development of empathy, caring, compassion and social responsibility, which are all integral to becoming a good citizen. Together, teachers and children create a classroom community where children are involved in a range of interactions and experiences that promote the development of identity, valuing diversity, and appreciating and caring for the world around them. They learn about their impact on others, their immediate classroom community, and as they grow, the larger world in which they live. 

How to Raise a Good Citizen

You have a key role in supporting the development of citizenship within your child. Start first within your home, and as your child grows, gradually expand to your larger community.

Give Your Child Responsibility

Create an environment that helps your child to become responsible for their own belongings and then to contribute to the greater good of the household. Having your child take on small jobs within your house ensures they learn the value of hard work, helping others, and making a contribution. Keep the jobs consistent with their capabilities so they learn about the joy of helping, rather than becoming frustrated. Be sure you help your child learn the task — perhaps first doing it alongside them — until they become confident. 

Read Books about Good Citizenship 

As with so many topics, books are a perfect starting point to spark discussion and learning. Seek high quality literature that promotes conversations about honesty, making change, or doing one’s part. Two books that support the development of citizenship skills are: 

After reading, ask your child some thought provoking, open-ended questions:

  • What would you do if you saw someone throw trash on the sidewalk? Why? 
  • What would you do if you saw someone on the playground fall and get hurt? Why?
  • What is one thing you would change to make the world a better place? Why? How would you go about making this change?

Connect within Your Community

Visit local shops, farm stands, libraries, fire houses, and other places that will help your child understand the fabric of a community and how it works. When visiting these places, speak to the people who work there to learn more about their role within the community. Spend some time learning about and riding the public transportation options in your area. 

Seek volunteer opportunities in your neighborhood to begin to boost your child’s propensity for helping. Nursing homes, animal rescue centers, or public space clean-up campaigns are all options. 

Teach Simple Lessons in Civic Engagement

Bring your child with you to vote. If age-appropriate, explain the importance of voting and why you participate. A preschooler is too young to understand the complete political landscape, but they can start to learn the significance voting and begin to understand your value system. 

Remember: helping your child understand what it means to be good citizen extends much farther than basic civics. It requires the development of empathy, an appreciation for diversity and inclusion, responsibility, and opportunities to be an effective agent of change in the immediate community. 

More on Being a Good Citizen

Written by: Bright Horizons Education Team

May 1, 2021

About the Author

Teacher reading to a toddler boy and girl

Whether you’re looking for parenting advice, or trying to figure out how to bring learning from the classroom to the family room, let Bright Horizons early education experts be your trusted, knowledgeable resource. Get our weekly newsletter for all things early child development—from the benefits of pretend play to at-home STEM activities, and teaching kindness—along with encouragement for every stage of your parenting journey.