Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lynn Scoresby, "Raising Moral Children".

Below is my very short summary of a 4 hour lecture on tape by Lynn Scoresby titled "Raising Moral Children".

A simple definition for morality/immorality that children can understand:  Morality is any act or intention that helps someone; Immorality is any act or intention that harms someone.  When teaching this definition to young children they will associate harm with physical harm, but as they develop, they will begin to see that harm can also include spiritual, mental, and emotional harm.

Don’t overemphasize rules or achievement, emphasize moral reasoning/judgment and agency
Kids that are heavily rule oriented might have difficulty not hurting someone because of the rules. Rules are necessary, but morality and agency are more important.  Sometimes it’s necessary to break rules in order to be moral. 

Moral Reasoning
Moral reasoning is the ability to interpret what helps or harms another.  
When your children ask why they should do something don't give them the easy answer, "Because I said so!"  Talk them through the moral reasoning you go through in your mind--meaning, delineate the reasons why obedience to such an action will harm or help another.  Tell them why there is a rule.

Empathy vs. Defensiveness

Empathy is the ability to understand others on an emotional level.  This is the ability to put one’s self in another’s place and make predictions of how they are feeling or how they would react in their situation.  To teach children to develop this trait, frequently talk with them about how they feel and how you feel.  It’s important that they distinguish good and bad emotions and build their emotional vocabulary.  When children are experiencing an emotion you need to help them recognize it and label it properly.  

Defensiveness is the opposite of moral reasoning.  Defensiveness means that you are unaware of your own feelings and that you shift responsibility of your acts away from you.  Those who are defensive make excuses, and blame or criticize others.  Being defensive prevents you from understanding others and prevents empathy and the development of moral reasoning. 

Moral Judgment
Moral judgment is the decision you make about whether or not to hurt or help.  

When a child explodes handle it with patience and quiet tones.  Then when they have calmed down you need to teach them to adapt their emotions.  Take them out of a situation and let them practice getting a hold of their emotions until they are ready to fit in. The adaptable human beings, adjusting from one situation to another emotionally, and the ones who regulate the intensity of their emotions are the ones who are moral. 

Help them learn to regulate the need to belong, the need for identity, the need to experiment, express anger, and the need for love and attention.       
Autonomy vs. Vulnerability


The two personality traits associated with moral judgment are autonomy and vulnerability.  Autonomy is taking personal responsibility for self and for actions.  Teach children a positive emotional style: joyful, cheerful, happy etc.  These children are more resistant to temptations and less likely to be vulnerable.  

The opposite of autonomy is vulnerability.  Children exposed to negative expressions are more vulnerable.  Teach them to be active, not passive.  Kids who are passive are much more vulnerable to temptations.   Limit passive activities and get them moving.  TV, video games, and sleeping are passive.  Get them up and moving or they will be vulnerable. 

Conversation Skills
The single most effective punishment is requiring your children to rehearse what was right and wrong about their actions.  Make conversation a punishment.   Keep talking about good moral reasoning and judgment until they get it right.  

Friday, October 7, 2011


I'm learning all sorts of fascinating ideas in my education class right now so this blog may just well be my venting area for a while.  What intrigues me about these theories are the similarities I find with gospel truths.  They are kind of like a preparatory gospel.  I like to think of the task of gathering truths (from wherever they may be) to the task the Prophet Joseph faced in the translation of ancient records and the bible.  It's going to require the Spirit, and, as Oliver Cowdery discovered, more than just asking.  It takes concentration, effort, and  diligence.  Of course you need a foundation of truth to build upon as found in the words of the Lord, but I merely wish to point out that there is great value in truth wherever you may find it.  I think you need both secular and spiritual knowledge to develop a well balanced character--which is the purpose of learning.  If your learning is too one-sided on either secular or spiritual, then you become quite, well, weird!  

Kohlberg's theory of moral development has six stages, but in class my teacher spoke of a simplistic version of this theory that I'll include here.  Talking about stages is perhaps the wrong word to even describe development because development is not a stage or event, it's a process.  The driving force behind Kohlberg's research was to discover the reasons or rationale people went through for doing things.  He wanted to know what motivated people to do things.  He narrowed it down to three main categories: Pre-conventional, Conventional, and Post-Conventional.

In pre-conventional, the motive for doing things is for personal reward or to avoid punishments.  Essentially, in this stage you do things for yourself.  A simple example would be a child obeying their parents to avoid punishment.  Similarly, a child obeying parents to receive a reward.  "What's in it for me?" is a giveaway for this line of reasoning.

Conventional reasoning is still focused on self, but in a round about way.  A person in this stage acts for the good of the group, family, or society.  They are concerned about the safety, happiness, or good of other people, but it in the end the benefits for being concerned about others is so that they will themselves be benefited.  For example, a person acting upon this motive would obey the commandment to not steal because they believe that chaos in society is prevented from obedience to laws such as this.  They are obeying to help society, but really the benefit comes to them in the end because there is a peaceful society that they can live in.  

Post-Conventional is the highest moral level and an individual in this level is not concerned with self.  Their actions and decisions reflect a sole concern for others without need for reward.  In the gospel, we call this charity.  When faced with a moral dilemma, this individual does not make a decision based upon whether or not they will be rewarded, or avoid punishment by their decision.  They also do not make their decision based upon what the law or the rule says.  They make their decision based upon the effect their decision will have upon the well-being of others.  It's not about them, it's about others.  Jesus is the prototype.  

Notice that in each of these stages the action can be the same.  What changes is the motive.  The connections with the gospel are quite apparent.  

Elder Oaks said something interesting about this:

"Each of us should apply that principle to our attitudes in attending church. Some say “I didn’t learn anything today” or “No one was friendly to me” or “I was offended” or “The Church is not filling my needs.” All those answers are self-centered, and all retard spiritual growth."

I recommend reading the whole talk:

This devotional is a must!  If you don't read the others, make sure you read this.

Another great talk from Elder Oaks about this subject: 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Maslow's Hierarchy

I used to be incredibly closed minded, but nowadays I'm starting to absorb the light from anyone and anywhere.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs has taken new meaning to me.  There are many philosophies out there to explain why and how we should do things.  It's best to approach each theory with scrutiny and realize that first and foremost it is, after all, just a theory.  When examining an aspect of your life it's wise to view it from several different theories, not just one, and derive the best meaning and value you can from each of them.

There are 5 basic stages of development to Maslow's theory: Physical Needs, Safety Needs, Love and Belonging Needs, Esteem Needs, and Self Actualization Needs.  According to the theory, you cannot move up the ladder of needs until that need has been met.

For most of us, the first two needs are pretty well taken care of.  There is, of course, some controversy over how much satisfaction do each of these needs require, but I think it's safe to say that most of us are not truly starving nor do we live in constant fear for our life.

I believe I have ascended the next three stages of development at different times in my life and I'm certain that whoever is reading this bore has too.

What I would like to point out is that upon personal reflection I realize that you can fall down the ladder at any time when one of the preceding needs is challenged.  For example, during my single life I climbed to the top of the needs ladder and reveled in the self actualization stage.  However, I became absorbed in my quest for a wife and the need for love and belonging was greatly challenged.  I could no longer focus on self mastery and achieving my potential because that need to love and belong was not met (according to the theory).

Here's some words to ponder about the meaning of each stage and where you are and what you can do to move up the ladder.  Perhaps the higher stages of development are only personal perspective?  Change your perspective and you move up the ladder?

Physical Needs - Food, Water, Shelter, Clothing etc.
Safety Needs - Protection, Security, Order, Law
Love and Belonging - Family, Affection, Relationships, Friendship, Feeling Appreciated
Esteem - Achievement, Status, Mastery, Respect, Self Esteem, Responsibility
Self Actualization - Personal Growth, Self Fulfillment, Realizing inner potential, Problem Solving, Acceptance of facts, Morality, Creativity, Lack of Prejudice