Archived Story

Talk values with children

Published 5:54pm Saturday, August 3, 2013

QUESTION: How do children grow up to be honest, kind, trustworthy, dependable and generous?

ANSWER:  Talking about values with our kids is important.  Ethics is the discussion of why and when we believe specific moral standards are important.  There is no better place to have those discussions than around the dinner table, in the family room, or while driving in the car.

There is a great deal of psychological research that shows that people’s moral views develop in the same sequence.  After 20 years of study, psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg defined six basic stages of moral development.  First comes doing the right thing to avoid punishment by those who set the rules.  Second comes doing something good to receive something good in return.  Third comes doing something good for the approval of the group to which we belong.  Fourth comes the willingness to accept the standards of the nation.  Fifth comes the willingness to listen and understand the values of others in the world and the desire to work toward consensus or agreement.  Sixth comes an active, personal commitment to justice, society’s welfare, the equality of human rights and respect for the dignity of individual human beings.  While people progress through the stages in the same sequence, not everybody progresses through all the stages.

Where, as a family, we put our time, energy and money greatly influences our children’s moral development.  What we affirm in our children’s development will also have a major impact.  I remember my parents’ pleasure when I first chose to give a substantial portion of my own earnings to my church.  I remember sending a check within an hour after both my grade school sons said we simply had to help at least two children in poverty overseas.  I remember not reprimanding my college freshman when he told me he had given his second winter jacket away to a fellow on the street who looked miserably cold.

Encouraging moral development is a reason many families become volunteers in their community.  Yes, they periodically need to change their routine some, but they also have an opportunity to talk as a family about their own blessings, people’s common needs, and the unfairness of life, as well as experience practical sharing, being friendly to people they don’t know, and putting the “golden rule” into action together.

If you would like to talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in child raising, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 877-434-9528.  To find out about becoming a volunteer provider for short-term, free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599.  

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