Parenting Solutions: Not Knowing Right from Wrong
Has difficulty deciphering right from wrong, chronically lies or steals, can't be trusted, blames others for wrongdoing, won't accept responsibility for wrongdoing
The Change to Parent For
Your child learns right from wrong, internalizes your family's good values, and develops a strong sense of morality that helps him act right even in the face of temptation or without your guidance.
Question: "I found a video game that doesn't belong to him in my eight-year-old son's room. I'm positive he stole it from the grocery store. He has everything he wants, so how do I handle it?"
Answer: How parents react to their child's misbehavior can be destructive or productive in helping him learn right from wrong. Responding appropriately to his wrongdoing makes a parent's job especially significant when it comes to stretching conscience. Here are my Four R's of Moral Discipline to help your son learn from his stealing episode. You can also use these four points with almost any misbehavior to help your child understand right from wrong.
- Respond so as to help the child think through his actions. You might ask, "Explain what happened," "Why did you do it?" "What made you do it?" "How did you think it would turn out?" "Did it turn out as you had hoped?" "What would you do differently?"
- Review why the behavior is wrong. You might ask, "Do you think stealing is right or wrong?" "Why shouldn't you take something from a store or anywhere else?" "Can you think of other reasons why a kid shouldn't steal?" "Why do you think I'd be upset?"
- Reflect on the victim. Help your child imagine what it would be like to be in the victim's place. "Let's think about the man who owns the grocery store. How do you think he feels about his property being taken?" "How would you feel if you had to pay for things someone else took from you?" "Would it be fair if you had to use your salary to pay for it?"
- Right the wrong to stretch conscience. Brainstorm together a few options that guide your son to right the wrong and return the game because he knows it's the right thing to do. "You know that what you did was wrong, so let's think of what you can do to make things right."
Your goal is to stretch your son's conscience so that he understands the full impact of his actions, including the victim's feelings. Moral growth evolves gradually, so don't expect overnight changes, but instead find simple daily ways to use the Four R's to boost his moral growth.
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