“Actions speak louder than words” is an aphorism that can be used when considering moral reasoning versus moral behavior. It is one thing to have good intentions and good thinking and another to make good decisions in the heat of the moment. It is often too easy to come up with excuses and get carried away on those ‘solid priorities’.
Most people agree that morality is important and needs to be taught. But the consensus soon breaks down when it comes to what it is and how to teach it.
The question here is why moral development is necessary and how it relates to child development. In my opinion, developing morals is not a one-day process, but a process that lasts a lifetime. Just as we need food to sustain our bodies, we also need moral values to sustain our minds and souls.
Along with moral development, emotional development is also necessary.
What is morality?
Morality is “the recognition of the distinction between good and evil or between right and wrong; respect for and obedience to the rules of right conduct; the mental disposition or characteristic of behaving in a manner intended to produce good results.”
Moral development is the process by which children develop appropriate attitudes and behaviors towards other people in society based on norms, social and cultural rules, and laws.
Let’s understand the process in detail
Levels of moral development in children
Moral development in children is gradual as they grow from infancy to adolescence and beyond. There are 5 main levels of moral development in children.
Infants (up to 2 years)
Infants cannot moralize. Their sense of right and wrong depends on their feelings and desires. After nine months in the womb, the baby expects parental care, so his sense of justice depends on whether or not his needs are met. Hunger and loneliness are uncomfortable feelings for your baby and don’t feel right. Being cared for, hugged, and fed feels good, while lack of response is scary and wrong.
Toddlers (2 to 3 years)
At this age, your toddler realizes that others have rights and needs as well. However, he has not yet understood the difference between good and bad.
Feelings of guilt are based on empathy and moral behavior. Depending on the actions conveyed by the parents, the young child understands that obedience is the norm.
Your toddler knows it’s wrong to take a toy from a sibling just because they might get into trouble. They understand why it is wrong to hit someone because they know that they will be punished for it. Thus, your child will tend to follow the rules to avoid punishment.
Preschoolers (3 to 5 years)
This is the age at which your child internalizes family values. Since rules and regulations are essential to the family discipline, they become important to your child as well. Your child expects the elderly or parents to take responsibility. They understand the role of a “child” and an “adult” and hope that they will be brought to maturity.
The child realizes that actions have consequences: “If I do this, it will happen.” The positive direction of the parents makes the child bond well and behave well. The separated child will do what they want unless and until they are caught.
Kids (7-10 years)
After the age of 7, children start questioning if the people who hold authoritative positions, such as teachers and parents, are infallible.
Your child will develop a strong sense of what he should and should not do. They would want to participate in making rules.
Children of this age develop a sense of fairness and understand the necessity of rules. They understand that children also have rights and filter the rules according to their best interests
Adolescents (11- 16 years)
As they reach adulthood, children begin to develop their own moral values as they question and analyze those imposed by their parents. Your teen will broaden his or her moral horizons and see rules as a set of social guidelines that benefit everyone.
They value the rules, but they also negotiate. They take an interest in what is generally good for society, as they develop their abstract thinking skills. Your teen will begin to realize that the decision they are making affects those around them.
Your youngster wants to be accepted by his peers and can change his values and morals.
Moral Development is about learning ‘values about love!’
Love expresses itself in its connections with one and all. It is a proper means of expression when there is a common essence at an individual, as well as, at its indefinable most universal level.
Good morale is the foundation of every society that will have the power to survive and last. Without appropriate moral development, society is bound to crumbles and education becomes obsolete. What are your views on this? Let us know in the comments below.