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Children’s Moral Development Stages.

 Children’s Moral Development Stages.


  1. Ages 2 to 5 – Developing Moral Sensitivity: During this stage, children start to display morally based behaviors and beliefs. They become aware of the impact of their actions on others’ feelings and well-being. This is often characterized by situations where children like Sally notice when someone, like Cindy, takes something from another child (Kim) and understand that it’s not appropriate. They may express concern or tell the wrongdoer that they will get in trouble. This phase shows the beginnings of empathy and a sense of right and wrong.
  2. Ages 5 to 10 – Rule-Oriented Behavior: In this stage, children typically become more rule-oriented and conscious of authority figures’ expectations. They may follow rules primarily out of a fear of getting into trouble or facing consequences. The article mentions that children become cautious about their actions and may look around to check if someone is watching when they do something they know is wrong. This suggests that they are beginning to understand societal norms and consequences for their actions.
  3. Adolescence – Developing Abstract Moral Reasoning: As children grow older, they develop more abstract thinking abilities. This cognitive development enables them to understand and evaluate moral dilemmas in a more complex manner. They can form their own moral rules and apply them to various situations. This is consistent with Kohlberg’s theory of moral development, where individuals progress from a focus on external rules to internalized principles.
  4. Parental Guidance and Education: The role of parents is crucial in shaping a child’s moral development. Parents play a vital role in teaching children right from wrong, setting boundaries, and modeling moral behavior themselves. Consistent guidance, discussions about values, and explanations about the consequences of actions help children internalize moral principles.
  5. Understanding Motivations Behind Behavior: The article also highlights the importance of understanding the motivations behind a child’s behavior. For example, the case of the boy taking food at school illustrates that sometimes children may engage in “wrong” actions for reasons that make sense to them. In such cases, it’s essential to address the underlying motivations, provide guidance, and help children find more appropriate ways to achieve their goals without breaking rules.

In conclusion, children learn moral behavior through a combination of cognitive development, social interactions, and guidance from authority figures, primarily their parents. As they grow, their understanding of right and wrong becomes more nuanced and abstract, allowing them to make ethical decisions independently. It’s also important for adults to empathize with children’s motivations and provide appropriate guidance to foster moral development.

 Children's Moral Development Stages.





Respond to the following:

How do children learn moral behavior?

In reading this article by Angela Oswalt, she talks about how early childhood moral development works. She starts with ages between 2 and 5 and how children start to show morally based behavior and beliefs. Sally may see Cindy take a doll from Kim, Sally sees that Kim is sad and tells Cindy, you’re going to get in trouble. There also might be empathy-based guilt. Cindy might see Kim crying and sad because she took the doll and hurt her feeling and go to Kim and try to help. Between the ages 5 and 10 children follow the rules from their authority figure, where they are almost afraid of being in trouble. When they do something, they know is wrong they will look around to see if anyone is watching. As children get older, they develop more abstract thinking and are more less focused. Children can form rules and applying them in the right way. Parents need to always remember that children will break rules and try to get away with a lot, that’s why we as parents set rules. Teaching your child wrong from right at how will stay with them even at school. A mom in this article was struggling with her son taking food at school, she had the biggest fear her son was going to grow up and be a thief. After a few days and the help of a teacher watching what was going on they found out he wasn’t keeping the food he was sharing with the other children to make sure they all had the same. Yes, what he was doing was wrong taking something that wasn’t his, but why he was doing it made sense. After explaining to the young boy, we can’t take food from others and telling him they understand why he was doing it, but he couldn’t do it anymore and the school will help other children if they needed more food. I thought that was a very sweet part of the article.



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