Raising Children of Character From Birth to Young Adulthood Dr. Brad Sachs, Ph.D www.bradsachs.com Thursday, April 23, 2009 Better BedRest Read and Rest
The Most Important Endeavor… The most important human endeavor is striving for morality Albert Einstein
Challenges to Moral Development • Achievement and Accomplishment • Competition • Academic supremacy • Activity-based Virtuosity
Challenges to Moral Development • Acquisition and Materialism (having goods vs. being good) • Obedience and Uniformity • Meaninglessness (valuing trivia/information over wisdom, valuing entertainment over play)
Choices… THE SUCCESSFUL LIFE VS. THE GOOD LIFE
The Successful Life? If I take pleasure in humiliating other people and continually succeed in doing so, does that mean that I can conclude that I’m leading a successful life?
The Successful Life? If I make a lot of money through taking advantage of others, but donate a good portion of that money to individuals who are disadvantaged, does that mean I can conclude that I’ve led a successful life?
The Good Life The Good Life entails getting what you want….
The Good Life… But most of us agree that what we want has to be worth wanting, consistent with human decency and connected with human values
The Good Life To be good is to be good for something, good in a way that nourishes and sustains what’s good in others
The Good Life • All of our children will hopefully enter into intimate relationships but what are we doing to prepare them for healthy, enduring intimacy? • Almost all of our children will become parents, yet we often ignore this essentially human task in our own education and childrearing priorities
Moral Development 1) Moral Development is more complicated than initially thought Not “stages” of moral development (Piaget, Kohlberg) so much as a complex blossoming and deepening, an unfolding of moral thinking and behavior influenced by both genes and environment
Your Moral Sense Is it wrong to cheat on a test?
Your Moral Sense Is it wrong to cheat on a test? Would you consider cheating on a test if you were sure you wouldn’t get caught?
Your Moral Sense Is it wrong to cheat on a test? Would you cheat on a test if you were sure you wouldn’t get caught? Would you let someone you didn’t like cheat off of your test to get a better grade?
Your Moral Sense Is it wrong to cheat on a test? Would you cheat on a test if you were sure you wouldn’t get caught? Would you let someone you didn’t like cheat off of your test to get a better grade? Would you let someone you cared about cheat off of your test if you knew that s/he hadn’t been able to study due to a crisis last night?
Your Moral Sense In School A , chewing gum is against the rules… In School B, gum-chewing is allowed… Is it alright to chew gum in School B?
Your Moral Sense In School A, hitting another student is not allowed… In School B, hitting another student is permitted… Is it alright for students to hit one another in School B?
Your Moral Sense There are four patients in Intensive Care, each of whom needs a healthy donor organ to survive (heart, kidney, liver, lung) That afternoon, a man dies in a car accident, someone who has agreed ahead of time to be an organ donor… Is it okay to use his organs to save the patients’ lives?
Your Moral Sense There are four patients in Intensive Care, each of whom needs a healthy donor organ to survive (heart, kidney, liver, lung) That afternoon, a healthy man is sitting in the waiting room waiting for a check-up… Is it okay to kill him and use his organs to save the patients’ lives, being that there’s only one of him and four of them?
Moral Development 2) All children struggle with moral dilemmas, but are often limited by: • Egocentrism (“If it works for me, it must be okay”) • Self-regulation challenges • Shame/embarrassment, leading to deceit
Moral Development 3) Children’s relationships with their Primary Caregivers shape the course of their moral development: Close attachment and mutual responsiveness at home increase the ability to attend to emotional plight of others, and offer help if necessary
Moral Development Close attachment leads to Conscience and Empathy which lay the groundwork for Morality
Moral Development 4) Parental engagement is the most critical component of Moral Development • Responsivity and Discipline • Affection and Limit-Setting
Moral Development Three typical methods of parental moral induction…
Moral Development Power Assertion • punishment • deprivation • shaming • lecturing • threatening
Moral Development Love Withdrawal • Abandoning • Isolating
Moral Development Empathy-Oriented a) explores impact of behavior on others b) alternative methods provided c) appealing to child’s pride
Moral Development External vs. Internal Morality
Moral Development External Morality Capable of performing moral behavior, but • Less likely in absence of adult supervision • Doing good deeds to please role model • Wanting to avoid punishment
Moral Development Internal Morality Capable of performing moral behavior: 1) Even in absence of adult supervision 2) Pleasing to self and others 3) Becomes on-going source of self-respect
Moral Development Power Assertion and Love Withdrawal are least effective in terms of promoting Internal Morality…
Moral Development • Enrage Child • Provide a model for aggressive or passive-aggressive behavior • Prompt the child to focus more on his/her own behavior or the parent’s behavior than on the impact of his behavior on others
Unhelpful Responses Shaming: “Don’t you know better than that? Throwing stones at cars is something we’d expect from a 3 year old!” Learning: “Mom and Dad don’t think very much of me. I must be dumb….”
Unhelpful Responses Embarrassment: “What kind of home will people think you come from? What will people think of us as parents?” Learning: “I should be worried more about what the neighbors think than what could happen to the driver.”
Unhelpful Responses Intimidation: “Do you realize what could happen if a police officer saw you doing that?” Learning: “If I’m going to throw stones at cars, I better make sure nobody is looking.”
Unhelpful Responses Punishment: “You have lost all electronics for a week: computer, video games, TV, everything!” Learning: “I’d better not throw stones again if I want to do what I like to do.”
Moral Development Empathy-Oriented approach is most effective in terms of promoting Internal Morality
Moral Development Parents who discussed the emotional impact of moral conflicts upon their children are more likely to witness advanced moral development and behavior through their children’s development
Moral Development Parents who teach children techniques for dealing with their own negative emotions (sadness, anxiety) raise children who display more empathy in empathy-inducing situations
Moral Development As children grow, parents need to…
Moral Development • Display Patience • Help children anticipate and analyze cause-effect relationships with more subtlety • Enhance perspective-taking skills with more sophistication • Arm children with problem-solving skills • Provide children with emotional coping mechanisms
Moral Development Parents must also continue to…
Moral Development Demonstrate high levels of involvement, which means…. • Adopt a positive approach of interacting/instructing • Monitor and supervise in age-appropriate ways • Provide clear expectations and enforce rules • Refrain from using corporal punishment…
Moral Development • Share personal moral dilemmas and reasoning • Hold high but achievable moral standards for child • Hold high but achievable moral standards behavior for self • Create a democratic family process
Moral Development • Read and share stories about moral conflict and imagination • Provide children with regular opportunities to perform acts of kindness and generosity • Engage children in conversations that elicit moral behavior (both towards self and others)
Morality and Compassion Moral behavior at its highest level results in Compassion
COMPASSION Compassion is the capacity to remain fully in the presence of, courageously bear witness to, and attempt to alleviate the suffering of others Compassion forms a link between our own self-interest and the reality of other’s interests
Compassion Compassion requires three thoughts: • That something bad has happened to someone else • That this bad event was not (or not entirely) the person’s own fault • That we ourselves are vulnerable in similar ways (Aristotle)
Compassion Compassion prompts us to ask: • What are you going through? • How can I be of support?