Moral and Emotional Development.
Adults are just grown up children so
learning about child development is learning
about our own development.
Moral development refers to the gradual change in what influences
our decisions about right and wrong as we journey from infancy to old age.
‘Moral development ’ is synonymous with ‘the road of peace and happiness’ because each stage of our moral development increases our capacity to think in terms of the equality of all people. It also increases our capacity to understand and practice using the compass of nonviolence that guides us. We are meant to be happy on the journey and to increase that happiness during old age, if the natural process unfolds without a hitch. First we will look at the moral development of children, which includes learning about the unfolding of the early stages in our own development. Then we will briefly look at the two stages that occur during adult life.
There is a strong link between moral and emotional development, and each influences the other. We begin with the normal, gradual changes that occur in the way children work out what they should and shouldn’t do from birth to teenage. During those years, children go through a set sequence of changes in their reasons for keeping to the thousands of ‘rules’ about how people should treat each other and the environment. When we know the sequence of those changes, and what to expect as the child grows, we have a better chance of encouraging their healthy moral growth. As we will see, moral development doesn’t stop at teenage, it continues right through life, with no set age at which the later stages occur. (Box 9).
Moral development can’t be taught but it can be encouraged by providing children with choices for solving moral dilemmas. Moral thinking emerges from experience, not directly from knowledge. The natural changes occur within each child as a result of the child making decisions about what to do, and from how the child interprets the outcome of the choices they make. Each change is gradual over a period of time but there are moments of sudden understanding that are often described as ‘light bulb moments.’ We can sometimes be very disappointed with a child’s motives as we try to teach them right from wrong, but, most of the time, the child’s motives are normal, and consistent with the way children of that age think.
There are similarities between moral development in children and our development towards being nonviolent. We can’t be directly taught to be nonviolent, we can be taught what it’s all about and what tools to use. We can also be taught how to use the tools and what benefits there are in using them, but we only become nonviolent through the experience of nonviolence. The more we learn about nonviolence the better but there is no point in knowing about it if we don’t do it. It would be like knowing about love but never experiencing it. If we don’t experience love, we don’t know love at all and if we don’t experience nonviolence, we don’t know nonviolence at all.
MORAL AND EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT ................................69
An overview of moral development.
Children are born self-centred.
THE PRESCHOOL YEARS, 0 TO 6 .........................................74
THE PRIMARY SCHOOL YEARS, 7 TO 12 ..................................77
The age of reason.
The emotional side.
THE SECONDARY SCHOOL YEARS, 13 TO 18 ...........................82
ADULT MORAL DEVELOPMENT ..............................................83
It's never too late to start again.
Go to Chapter Five.
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