The Making of a Moral Compass

jesus_holding_hands_with_childBy Nancy Blakey

When my children were small they moved through little fibbing phases. When I would ask, “Did you spill that box of cereal on the floor?” I would get a “No! Not me!” knowing full well it was him. I wondered about these little lies and wanted to come up with a strategy that didn’t hammer hard, but that let them know I knew the truth, and I began to tell the kids that they could say all the words they wanted, but the truth would shine out of their eyes like flashlights, and I would know. Mothers ALWAYS know.

Little girl covering her eyes with handsAfter that, when they lied they squinched their eyes closed while making up their drifty stories. It was my own personal lie detector test that has traveled through the years to land here on Easter weekend with a house full of kids and cousins and babies and 5-year old Finn shouting “Nana! Look into her EYES!” when Poppie told me she didn’t take the doll from her screaming little sister.
“Poppie?” I asked.
“Hmmmm, let me think,” she said with her head turned from me.

You cannot bestow a strong moral compass upon children, it is learned from the most important people in his or her life—the parents.

Raising a child with strong morals is easier with two things in place: there is a strong attachment between parent and child, and you have robust morals yourself.

We begin the dance from birth with our children; it is the seedbed of emotional attachment. Children are impacted, for better or worse, by those who are most meaningful to them. You. By developing a loving relationship with our children as they grow, we are creating a solid base to lean on through the years, for the reality is—kids really, truly, deeply care what their parents think, almost without exception. In addition, the strength of your bond is your most powerful teaching tool in developing morals. If we do not have a strong emotional tie with our child, our role as guide is diminished.th-1

One of the keys to a good relationship with our children is empathy. By naming emotions for our children we are giving them the start of their own empathy for others: You are cold, That must have hurt, You are having a rough morning, are words that help a child understand how they are feeling, and in turn they can begin to see it in others. We cannot grow into empathetic human beings without first understanding how we feel ourselves. Use compassion with your child, get into her shoes—is she tired? Jealous of a new baby sister, does she need more time to transition, is she scared of new experiences? Name them for her! Identify them and come up with strategies to make her feel safe and understood. This is one of the cardinal points in developing a moral compass for our children.

Your Own Moral Compass Counts
You have a rare window of opportunity from birth to 6 years old where kids wholeheartedly accept and absorb the ethics of the parents. It is not what you say; it is what you do that counts. If you make a meal for a sick neighbor, forgive a transgression, make time for your partner, or ignore Facebook between dinner and kids’ bedtime you are demonstrating that you value relationships over technology or that long list of things to do. Over the years of raising our four kids I also explained other people’s behavior, talked to strangers, and pointed out bullying–my hot button. More than once to the chagrin of my children I would march up to the offender and ask if her mother knew how she was behaving. “Because you are an embarrassment talking like that,” I declared, and then marched away. Did it help? Probably not the girl, but it did my own children who knew beyond a shadow of doubt that I would not tolerate bullying from any quarter, even if it was not my child. I returned extra change when a cashier made a mistake, and would not tell my own little fibs to teachers or coaches why my child was absent on test or game day. I walked the talked, well, most of the time. I would be lying if I said all the time.

c752e1d96048018fcea2462538c744bdDefine the morals you think are most important with your partner. Write them down. This is your family’s own personal manifesto. Be clear. Compassion, respect for others, accepting responsibility, and generosity are significant attributes in a moral compass that can guide your child through the thickets into a meaningful adulthood. Oh. And honesty. Keep your eyes open, your head facing what you must, and let the light of truth shine the way!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Speak Your Mind

*