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Sanctuary in the Home: Social Responsibility and Social Learning

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sanctuary-pieThis is Part 4 in a series of posts regarding implementing the Sanctuary Model in the home.

By Denise Morganthall


The most important influence in a child’s life is his or her parents. Children will learn good and bad behavior, but it is the responsibility of the parent to be socially responsible and provide proper role modeling. The community should not have to raise your child to be socially responsible because you did not.


However there are times when schools and communities do need to band together to impart lessons of social responsibility, as a way of teaching our children to care for others. It may be by helping to feed the hungry in our community. It may be protecting the environment by recycling. It may be visiting the elderly at a nursing home. We have an obligation to one another in our community as well as in our home. If we see our brothers and sisters struggling, we have an obligation to help them in any way we can. We are not just looking out for our own personal successes but helping others with theirs. It is a great feeling knowing you can help your own brother or sister in an unselfish manner. We should not be looking to be noticed or rewarded for our good deed. We are doing it out of the kindness of our hearts, not personal success.

In order to raise a socially responsible child we need to keep a few things in mind:

  1. Be a good role model – Include your child in selfless acts. Help out at a food bank or visit a nursing home.
  2. Make your child realize that material things do not matter. It is what is in our hearts that counts.
  3. Get involved in helping the environment.
  4. Encourage your child to speak the truth and be kind to others. Use the Golden Rule every day: Treat others as you would like to be treated.
  5. Teach that there is a zero tolerance policy for bullying and teasing.
  6. Read a chapter or two each day from a book such as “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” There is a book specifically for teens, and this is a great way to motivate your children and make them realize how fortunate they really are.

In raising a socially responsible child, you are building a sense of self and purpose in your child. Healthy and proper parenting in the early years is vital for contributing to a healthy community and molding children into socially responsible adults. Keep in mind this will not happen overnight, but you will find the time it took was worth the wait.


Social learning is another piece of the puzzle. As with social responsibility, children learn through observing and imitating others, so it is important as a parent to be aware of what you are doing and saying. Research shows that aggression is a socially learned behavior. If family members act violently toward each other, there is evidence that the child will act this way. Also when your children are very young it is important that you are aware of what they are watching on TV. If young children see violent behaviors, particularly if the person is a role model, they may feel it is ok in a similarly aggressive manner.


It is important to set examples for our children to grow up to be responsible young adults, enforcing good ethics, courtesy, kindness and helpfulness. Children learn best by example, so we need to go out of our way to see that we are doing our best to teach our children that life is not just all about them but those around us. There may be times when your child is around negative influences, but it is important that we are always communicating so that when bad things happen we are there to steer them in the right direction.

Denise has been in the mental health profession for 15 years. She is a mother of 4 and an advocate of Sanctuary. She is a Sanctuary representative for KidsPeace and a member of the Sanctuary Institute. Denise is also a life coach and is pursuing a career in freelance writing.


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