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How do young children learn about right and wrong?

(46 Posts)
TriciaF Sun 27-Sep-15 10:20:23

I've been chatting to a neighbour whose marriage has broken up and his wife has the children aged 5 and3.
It's a very long story, they're elderly parents. Wife has acted very dishonestly for years, mostly about money, he is quite honest (in comparison.)
I said to him that with her they could grow up with very distorted moral standards, and he seemed to be unsure what I meant - he thought maybe because she lets her grown son (from a previous marriage) live with his girlfriend in her house. So I said maybe but more about you can steal from other people and never give.
What do you think of as "moral standards"? And how do children learn them?
Those poor kids, they didn't ask to be born.

TriciaF Sun 27-Sep-15 10:22:50

ps I don't think it's particularly "immoral" for a young unmarried couple to live together by the way.

durhamjen Sun 27-Sep-15 10:27:57

I think you are brave saying that to a neighbour.

Luckygirl Sun 27-Sep-15 10:38:38

Yes - I am sure I would have confined myself to bland comments. Perhaps I am a coward.

My DDs and their OHs (and we!) spend a lot of time instilling moral values into the children - mainly about kindness, the simple tenet of "do as you would be done by." And schools are very hot on this now in - our local school has a "value of the week", which sounds a bit trite, but it does serve to highlight that values are important.

Hopefully values are taught by the example of the adults around them. But I have to say that our materialistic culture is not conducive to moral values.

TriciaF Sun 27-Sep-15 10:40:13

Jen - we've had several conversations like that with him, known them for years, where is the best place for the kids etc. He's more like a young brother to us and opens up a lot. And likes direct comments.

Judthepud2 Sun 27-Sep-15 10:40:44

Oh dear, Triciaf! I would be very wary about getting involved in someone else's marital problems unless you are a professional relationship counsellor! It could backfire on you big time shock

Personally, I believe that children learn about morality from a range of sources. Initially from parents/careers but more from peer group as they get older. But actually, this situation isn't your problem but between the parents to sort things out.

HildaW Sun 27-Sep-15 11:14:16

I cannot see any connection with living together without being married and stealing...not really on the same level.

As to how children learn, its the old argument Nature vs Nuture. I grew up in a dysfunctional family mainly due to the deeply moral ambiguity of my Father. Yet I knew deep down what he was doing was wrong and I had no intention of accepting his values.
My Mother was a good honest soul who, by example and by giving us 'the look' if we transgressed, instilled in us a decent moral code. I was always the sort who liked to fit in and please so I soon realised that society preferred those who played by the basic rules.
That being said I am nobody's push over and will stand up against an unfairness or bigotry.

Its a complicated scenario and psychologists can still argue how we learn right from wrong but, we do need to have the values from somewhere - whether we choose to follow them is another matter.

TriciaF Sun 27-Sep-15 11:21:14

You're right about not getting too involved, but he comes to us and asks for advice etc, also asked for written statements supporting him etc to which we said no. Other friends here have become much more involved than us, with dramatic results, police involved etc - can't give more details as I wouldn't want any of them to be identified.
I mainly asked to start a discussion on teaching children right and wrong, glad to hear that some schools seem to be taking this up, Luckygirl.
I think children learn mostly from the example of their parents, so we need to be so careful.
I never said to him the bit about children not asking to be born shock

LullyDully Sun 27-Sep-15 12:42:03

Teaching right from wrong has,always been part of education. Not a new idea surely.

soontobe Sun 27-Sep-15 13:20:48

The Bible.
If he is open to everything, it would be nice if you suggested that. I will pray for him.

Elrel Sun 27-Sep-15 13:50:54

I agree with LullyDully, the majority of teachers do their best. As TriciaF says, children learn by example, what they see around them, whether at home, at school or on TV.
Over 50 years I worked for several head teachers, some better than others. Only one, however, was dishonest and it was sad to see some other teachers either drawn into her schemes or turning a blind eye.

TriciaF Sun 27-Sep-15 15:44:19

Thanks for your replies. We and the other friends had become very fond of these 2 little ones, we were like grandparents to them, as they didn't have grandparents. And now they've been transported into another kind of life. It's very sad.
Jud thepud - we try to stay out of it, he comes to us.
Soon - thanks for that. He's completely anti-religion but I told him today that I send up a prayer every day for all of them - can't hurt.
Going back to teaching "morals" - when I was involved in the educational system there wasn't so much emphasis on this, apart fom in faith schools. And it wasn't apparent in my own school days, it was our parents who set the example (or not.)

PRINTMISS Sun 27-Sep-15 16:30:53

We were always told by teachers, that we did not go to school to learn good manners, they should be taught and practised at home, and I agree with that. Early 'thank you' and 'please' help, I think,along with a 'may I?'.

mikey345 Sun 27-Sep-15 18:23:41

children learn best by example,how they turn out will be determined by what they see and learn from their are great observers,and very poor interpreters

Ana Sun 27-Sep-15 18:45:24

Not many round my way say 'May I?' PRINTMISS!

rosequartz Sun 27-Sep-15 19:05:57

Too many parents seem to want to absolve themselves of responsibility for teaching manners - and such things as toilet training, eating with a knife and fork etc - to teachers these days.
Whilst teachers can instil a sense of right and wrong, kindness to others, don't bully etc, it is really up to the parents to set the standards.
Sadly, many don't seem to do so these days.

mikey345 Sun 27-Sep-15 19:27:06

am not a big fan of manners,,because they are learned,imitated,but not meant,and can be faked,and are no measure of a child potential,any social etequete society demands,,is to be treated with caution

celebgran Sun 27-Sep-15 20:03:35

Exactly rose quartz primarynschool teacher friend of mine says is very sad new little ones that have never sat down to eat at table used to TV dinners etc and even sadder lots never been read to?! Can't imagine that.

Good manners distinguish humans from Humbler forms of life surely ?
It is much easier if we are polite isn't it?

Leticia Sun 27-Sep-15 20:03:35

Children do as you do and never as you say. You have to set the good example.

celebgran Sun 27-Sep-15 20:18:09

Yes that's true

Deedaa Sun 27-Sep-15 20:54:54

My morals (such as they are) were strongly influenced by books I read while growing up T.H.White was a strong influence explaining that trying to own people is wrong even if you think that you want to do it for their own good. And that, in tragedy innocence is not enough, which is sad but often true. Even some of my mother's old books with boarding school girls wanting to do "Something rather fine" left a mark.

As my mother was a true blue Tory who adored Mrs Thatcher I don't think she quite realised some of the ideas I was picking up!

Elrel Sun 27-Sep-15 23:17:56

As the children are so young presumably they are largely unaware of their mother's dishonesty. They will, of course, know that something is wrong and that their lives are changing. The most important thing is that their family do all they can to ensure that they feel loved and secure. As they get older they will become more aware of their mother's behaviour and, sadly, are likely to accept it as normal. What a mess.

mikey345 Mon 28-Sep-15 02:54:12

by the age of 9 their brains have basic mapping already done,you cant unlearn

granjura Mon 28-Sep-15 13:17:14

One of the most fascinating thing I learnt at School of Ed, was the many theories about the acquisition of a moral framework- there are several, but the one that interested me more is Kohlberg's. He describes how chidren and adults need to go through several well described 'stages' of morality- with many never going beyond the 'lower simple' stages of direct rewards- and fery few accessing the 'upper' echelons of doing 'good' purely because it is the right thing to do, and the key to world peace and harmony.
He explains how each stage has to be crossed before going beyond. A stage can be crossed in minutes or in years- but can't be jumped.

I often think about his theory when we expect dictatorships becoming democracies overnight post-war, or otherwise. It's just not possible to do so too quickly without going through a upward stage process- or is doomed to failure. Why not Google this if interested.

trisher Mon 28-Sep-15 13:45:50

I think all morality is relative. I wish schools good luck with teaching values. I have taught in many schools where the parent's and family's morals were very different to the accepted norm. e.g Parent arrives at school with child in new shoes and asks you to admire them. You do so. She then tells you how much they are full price, how much in the sale and then proudly announces "The shop-lifters got me them for a tenner." I was also told that if there was something I really wanted it could be lifted for me. I once discussed this with a friend who thought this was a class thing. Working class people,she argued, steal, whereas middle class people fill in insurance claims and 'pad them out a bit'. Interesting!