Monday, 2 April 2012

Must parents make moral judgements for children?

Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray." Proverbs 22:6

Conscientious parents have little choice but to make moral judgements for their children based on their own beliefs. Unless they are going to allow the child to run wild and learn everything through experience, there must be rules of conduct laid down, by which all members of the family abide.

For Christians, and Western society in general, the basic codes of behaviour are derived from the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes.

Children, whose parents are religious, will be introduced at an early age to God, their Father in heaven. Through Bible stories and hymns, they will learn that he is the Creator and that he cares and watches over everything he made, including them.

They will be taken to the church, God's house on earth, to honour him on his special day, Sunday. They will whisper their first prayers, because they know their heavenly Father likes to hear from them often.

Younger children, as were the early Israelites, are usually first introduced to the prohibitions contained in the Commandments. They are admonished not to swear or use bad language, to respect their parents, not to steal, lie, kill or injure another person.

As they begin to interact with siblings and other children, they must be taught to share, to respect the belongings of others and to overcome inclinations to jealousy.

Parents who fail to instil these basic rules of conduct in their child will endure a household full of chaos themselves, and produce a child who is not welcome in the homes of others, who has few friends and who will have trouble in school from the moment he sets foot in the door.

Sometime during the primary grades, usually around the age of seven, children reach the "age of reason". Now they can weigh right and wrong and they are beginning to make judgements for themselves, but they still need their parents' guidance. They are capable of logical reasoning and can usually be convinced that a particular behaviour or course of action is good or bad based on reason and previous instruction.

Around this time a child is ready for the more positive admonitions contained in the Beatitudes. Wise parents will use events from the everyday life to help him realize that the world is a better place when people are generous, unassuming, compassionate, merciful, pure of heart, and workers for peace.

Children need to learn that they can make a difference. Their decisions are important; they affect the family, the school community, the local society, the country and ultimately the world. It's important that every decision, every project, every enterprise they undertake be done to the best of their ability. In this way, they develop confidence, initiative, and a good self-image.

These few years, when parents can pass on their own moral code to their children are vitally important. Once the young person is legally an adult, he'll be exposed to contemporary values and standards which are often directly opposed to those of his parents.

After age eighteen, he'll begin to learn from experience. He'll make mistakes; nobody's perfect. To the parents, it may seem as if he's forgotten every precept and moral value he was ever taught, but he hasn't. He's testing, he's learning, he's growing, he's acquiring wisdom. As he matures, he'll probably conclude that mom and dad knew best, after all.

From the earliest times, parents have been making moral judgments for their children based on their own beliefs. In doing so, they also pass on their faith, and their code of ethics and values to the next generation. This is one of the primary functions of the family unit. Children are not nurtured by food alone.

As long as there are traditional families, the majority of children will be set on the proper path to promote the continued progress of a just, honorable and compassionate society. For this fact, we should all be grateful.

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