Virtues not vices


When you see a wrong behavior or poor moral choice, do you focus on the vice? Or do you focus on the opposite virtue?

We are told to always speak with positive language (e.g., “tell the truth,” not “don’t lie”) but this also applies to bigger moral issues. The Ezzos teach us:

“Children of all ages are better served by substitution than suppression,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 118).

Say you see one of the following vices: lying, cheating, stealing, hoarding, jealousy, tattling, anger, etc. Stop, identify the vice and then work on the opposite virtue.

“Suppression of wrong behavior is often achieved by encouraging the opposite virtue. If you want to suppress jealousy, give equal time to elevating the opposite virtue: contentment,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 118).

Here’s a list of vices and their opposite virtues:

  • Envy: Charity
  • Anger: Self-control
  • Revenge: Forgiveness
  • Lying: Honesty
  • Hoarding: Sharing
  • Tattling: Speaking kindly of others

Think of it as redirection. When our toddlers keep touching the TV after we’ve told them not to 136 times, we redirect their behavior by giving them something else to focus on. So if your child is lying, focus on honesty, teaching him various forms of honesty throughout the day. If you see a child envious of a friend, redirect his vice by focusing on charity.


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