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The fourth principle in On Becoming Childwise is on morality. Ezzo and Bucknam state that morality is “essential for optimal intellectual and emotional development, as well as the advancement of natural skills” (page 68).
I find teaching proper morals to children to be the most overwhelming task of parenting. Sleep training was hard, sure. Sometimes food issues can cause you anxiety. But there is such complete weight associated with morals. Morals guide the child through life. A child who cares for others will share. A child who respects elders will speak in such manner. A child who loves others will be kind to siblings.
As the child ages, these morals become even more important, guiding the child through choices on drugs and sex. Those are extreme categories, but many of the simple things lead to those larger categories.
So instilling morals is an important parenting task.
And I don’t just want my children to do the right thing in action. I want it deeper than that. I want them to do the right things because they want to. I want their moral actions to be motivated from within. I want them to do what is right, and know what is right, even when I am not standing there. So I want to teach them to behave morally out of love, not out of fear of punishment or disappointment. Instilling morals is the way to lead the child to govern himself and discern right in new situations.
That is why instilling morals leads the child to having the behavior you desire. The behavior is an outward sign of an inward feeling.
So there is the big, overwhelming and generalized “why” we want to instill morals, the main question in our mind naturally then becomes “how”? It can seem overwhelming. I often feel overwhelmed when I start to think of the gravity of this goal. Okay, okay, I ALWAYS feel overwhelmed when I think of the gravity of this goal.
On Becoming Childwise has a lot of guidance on the topic of how to instill morals. We will go through those. There are also several posts on the topic on this blog: moral training.
The short answer is to be an example yourself. Emulate what you want your child to be. That will likely mean you will need to do some changing yourself. Maybe you want your child to share but you aren’t so good about sharing yourself. Maybe you want your child to speak kindly to others and of others but she often overhears you talking poorly about people you know. Maybe you want your child to be patient but she hears you yelling at other drivers as you drive down the road. Do your best to emulate the behavior you are trying to teach.
And of course you can’t be perfect. You will make mistakes. Take those opportunities to emulate the repentance process.
Actively teach about these morals in your home. Share stories that teach about proper choices and ways to act. Teach your child about the morals.
This is obviously a topic larger than a simple blog post, so we will discuss this further in the future and have discussed many aspects in the past.
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