When raising kid in a “me-centered” culture, it can be challenging to teach them right from wrong. Many examples displayed on television shows or even in kid’s literature often portray cheating and injustices without consequences, which is directly opposed to the very lessons many parents want to impart on their kids.
How can you foster a kid’s moral development when society has been deemed as a self-serving culture? A lot needs to be done to foster the return of morality or goodness, and the place to start is with kids.
The process needs adult intervention
Kids can’t be relied on to spontaneously grow their own moral compass. The process needs adult intervention. But rather than try to super-impose a set of rules, the goals of parents and caregivers should be to develop the kid’s own capacity for morality, or a sense of goodness, empathy, justice and care for others. These qualities need to be fostered and developed from the inside so that your kid comes to recognize it as part of his own identity.
As a rule of thumb, teaching your kid about morals should involve creative opportunities they can experience first-hand. This gives kids the opportunity to reflect on action and behaviors around them and weigh these against their own feelings and experiences.
Moral development at a young age
Toddlers and young kids often look to adults to articulate what is right and wrong. Even though research suggests that young kids may not have the capacity for moral reasoning, young kids can empathize with others.
Any discussion of why any behavior is right or wrong should include a simple statement about the effect it has on someone else. Ask the kid to imagine himself in the other person’s position and prompt empathetic thoughts with phrases such as “How do you feel when your friend won’t share the toy you want to play with?” or “When you don’t let Mia have a chance on the slide, she feels sad.”
Creative Lessons on Morals
Get creative when teaching morals by incorporating games for young kids. “Almost any game requires turn taking, which is a building block for concepts of fairness and kindness”. Take games to a new level by involving your kids in activities that require some cooperation, such as leader-follow games or projects that require kids to construct something together.
“Don’t expect that your young kid will go along with all of it peacefully – it’s actually when they don’t want to take turns or try to cheat that you get your teaching moments". “When possible, let the kids develop some rules themselves, like how long each kid’s turn should be. This helps them internalize the process and builds self-esteem.”
Beyond games, kids can learn moral lessons through books and stories. Try to select stories involving moral dilemmas and talk about the perspectives of the various characters. Instead of just reading the story, prompt your kid with a discussion so he or she can learn the concepts of morality within each story.
Role playing can also teach your kid about morality. Host a dramatic play in which your kids practice putting themselves in someone else’s shoes. When your kid gets the chance to play the “good guy” and the “bad guy,” he can further develop his skill of understanding different perspectives.
Morality Begins and Ends With Family
Basic morality relies on our sense of interdependence and mutual responsibility. The best lessons for this can start in your own home. One of the best ways to teach responsibility and morals is to hold your kid accountable for helping with household tasks.
Model the actions you want your kid to mimic as well. If you have assigned household tasks, do your share, too. If you want your kid to be charitable, engage the entire family in volunteer activities. Family volunteering is a hands-on way to teach kids about right actions". Not only is this an amazing learning opportunity for your kids, it is a fantastic way to spend time together as a family that will give you a new platform to talk about moral and ethical issues.