Morality means learning the difference between right and wrong or good and bad behavior toward others. It is associated with concepts such as values, conscience and legality. Parents and other close family members are typically essential in its development, because they are the primary social contacts during a person's childhood and adolescence. Teaching your child moral principles and setting a good example will help facilitate your child's moral development.
Spirituality and Healing
Spiritual or religious traditions in your home, such as going to religious services or having family talks about religion, they can help teach your child standards of conduct and provide a structure for moral development, says medical anthropologist Linda L. Barnes and colleagues in an article published in the Journal of Pediatrics entitled, “Spirituality, Religion, and Pediatrics: Intersecting Worlds of Healing.” The importance of forgiveness, for example, can be learned by following certain spiritual teachings. Religious parables or stories can help teach your child moral principles such as honesty, kindness, generosity and unselfishness.
Discipline and Expectations
When your child violates a moral principle, you can provide a response in line with the transgression, says Brigham Young University professor Stephen F. Duncan in his article, “Fostering Moral Development in Children” on the "Forever Families" website. For example, this could mean making a child apologize to another child or an adult for lying, stealing or engaging in aggressive behavior. A child can make amends by returning a stolen object or doing nice things for the victim. Having known expectations for prosocial behavior and responding consistently to your child's meeting them can also contribute to his moral development.
Your children will model your behavior and that of other adult family members with whom they frequently come into contact. Honesty and lying, for example, are child behaviors commonly influenced by parents' own behavior, say psychology professors at Arizona State University, Nancy Eisenberg and Carlos Valiente in their chapter of “The Handbook of Parenting," entitled "Parenting and Children's Prosocial and Moral Development." Children and adolescents are more likely to exhibit acceptable prosocial behaviors and moral judgment, such as empathy, sympathy and sharing, if their parents do.
The Influence of Siblings
Sibling behavior and how you respond to it contributes to moral development in younger children. An older sibling might set and maintain moral standards and provide advice for younger siblings, says University of Nebraska professor Gustavo Carlo in an article published in the Journal of Early Adolescence entitled “Early Adolescence and Prosocial/Moral Behavior.” How siblings interact with each other can also influence morality and prosocial behavior by teaching how to interact in social relationships. These type of interactions can help a child learn sharing, problem solving techniques, communication patterns, and conflict resolution skills that are fair and not hurtful to others.
- Theories of Development: William Crane
- Journal of Pediatrics: Spirituality, Religion, and Pediatrics: Intersecting Worlds of Healing
- Journal of Personality: Religion and the Forgiving Personality
- Forever Families: Fostering Moral Development in Children
- Journal of Adolescent Research: What Will My Parents Think? Relations Among Adolescents’ Expected Parental Reactions, Prosocial Moral Reasoning, and Prosocial and Antisocial Behaviors
- Handbook of Parenting: Parenting and Children's Prosocial and Moral Development
- Journal of Early Adolescence: Early Adolescence and Prosocial/Moral Behavior II: The Role of Social and Contextual Influences
- Annual Review of Psychology: Adolescent Development
- Perspectives on Psychological Science: Morality