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 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 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
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.
(Vulnerability)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 SkillsThe 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.