Archives for October 2011

Moral precept #1: Teach the way of virtue

In my next few posts, I will outline the moral precepts offered in On Becoming Childwise and explain the practical implementation of each.

Do you spend more time suppressing bad behavior and not enough time encouraging good behavior? Listen to yourself throughout the day. Do you sound like this:

  • Don’t touch the TV.
  • Don’t walk away from Mommy.
  • Stop! Don’t run into the parking lot.
  • Don’t hold the kitty that way.

Or do you sound like this:

  • Play with your toys, not the TV.
  • Stay close to Mommy, please.
  • Put your hand on the car in the parking lot.
  • Hold the kitty gently like this.

Do you see the difference? In the first set of bullets above, we are focusing on correcting bad behaviors. In the second example, we are showing better alternatives. As the Ezzos say, “Teach the way of virtue; not just the avoidance of wrong,” (On Becoming Childwise, pg. 77).

This all sounds well and good, but why must we do so? There’s one very important reason:

“Because so much emphasis is placed on which behaviors to avoid and too little on which ones to pursue, the path to virtuous deeds is left undefined for the child. If all you do is describe bad behavior, then the only thing your child has a mental image of is bad behavior,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 77).

We must teach our children the positive behavior we want to see from them!

And even better than simply phrasing your instructions with an emphasis on the positive is to give the child the moral or practical reason why. Going back to our examples above, you would say:

  • Play with your toys, not the TV. The TV is fragile and we would be very sad if it broke.
  • Stay close to Mommy please. I don’t want to lose you.
  • Put your hand on the car in the parking lot. There are a lot of cars driving by who might not see you. You don’t want to get hurt!
  • Hold the kitty gently like this. Doesn’t the kitty seem happier when you are more gentle with her?

Keep these points in mind to help build your child’s character and help him reach moral maturity. More on this in my next few posts!

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