Dear LA Teacher,
I'm pregnant with my first child and I've read all the books on childrearing that I could get my hands on. But the one thing I'm truly concerned about, that none of the books have touched upon is how to instill a sense of right and wrong in a child. Above all I want my child to have a good moral compass.
How do I teach my child morality?
Soon to be Mom
Dear Soon to be Mom,
Children have a birthright often ignored by American parents. Too many moms and dads are unwilling to make time for their kids. Children are handed over to strangers in daycare centers or nannies. Too many parents’ first priority seems to be self. Self-sacrifice is not a word familiar in their lexicon.
So it’s an honor to receive a letter from a parent willing to sacrifice her time to raise her children with a moral compass. Below you’ll find four ways to raise a moral child.
1. Raise a sensitive child. To raise a sensitive child, use Attachment Parenting Behavior. Basically, this means being sensitive and emotionally available to your children. Numerous studies conclude that attachment-parented infants are more likely to become moral children and adults.
2. Parenting role mode. Once your baby has been taught trust and sensitivity, the preschooler will be open to the dos and dont’s of life. Mom and Dad become the moral authorities. So if mom hugs a crying child with a boo-boo that teaches empathy. If dad throws his coke can into the trash at the park, he’s showing environmental awareness. By the age of 7 a child begins to reason for himself. His moral base comes from what his parents taught him during his first years of life.
3. Healthy modeling. Children pick-up a way of life from what they see at home. It is the parent’s job to inspire the child to follow her example. If mom wants her son to read every day, read to him daily. Also model the behavior by reading your favorite author, too. If you want your child to be kind to animals, bring a pet into your home and teach her how to care for the kitten or pup. The morals you want to teach are as extensive as the entries in Wikipedia.
4. Moral thinking. Ordinary family events can become teachable moments. For example, when I was a child I tossed a snowball at a passing car. The next day Rabbi Katz called me into his office. It was his car. Rabbi didn’t scold me. He just asked questions.
Rabbi: What happened when your snowball hit my windshield?
Child: I don’t know.
Rabbi: Could I have lost control of the car?
Child: I suppose.
Rabbi: And if I lost control, is it possible I could have it someone passing by?
Rabbi: Will you throw snowballs at cars again?
Child: No. Please don’t tell my mom.
Rabbi: I trust you, so there’s no need.
The rabbi provided a role model by showing me the errors of my ways, and he established trust by not telling my parents. I had the opportunity to think through the rightness or wrongness of my actions to decide never to throw a snowball at a car again.
Children raised with a moral code and operate by their inner controls and not out of fear of punishment have a balanced view of authority. These children become moral citizens. The kind of citizen you want your child to become.