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Parents are the child’s first guide to moral development. Children use their parents’ belief system and set of values as a guide to help them develop their own moral standards. These belief systems are usually present when a parent is disciplining a child and rights and wrongs are factored in. For instance my 3 ½ year old daughter knows that she is not allowed to “fool around’ in church. She knows this because both her father and I have tried to instill this into her. Last week though she was acting up and afterwards she knew she was in trouble, she even sensed it. Even though she is still young she knows many rights and wrongs already especially those which we have spoken to her about.
The most rewarding mechanisms used for disciplining a child will help promote the kind of behavior the parent wants to instill in their child, will their feelings of empathy grow and will help the child comprehend their own behavior. Some discipline mechanisms, like power assertion, can stop the incorrect behavior for a small period but will also hinder healthy moral growth and therefore not lead to long term goals.
Besides discipline parents also use positive methods to help instill moral development in a child. By talking about issues, promoting prosocial behavior and being positive role models the parents help to influence a healthy moral development. Parents can also help scaffold their child’s moral reasoning by helping them reach conclusions about issues or concerns the child may have.
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During the early school age years a child starts to become more aware of themselves as individuals. They not only start to build theories about themselves but also about how others see themselves and how they see others. Different viewpoints are recognized amongst individuals and children start realizing that what makes them happy may not make everyone else happy.
Empathy is developed into new levels as a child starts to feel for other in new ways they have never known before. Children also start to build upon their parents moral attitudes and lay the foundation for their own. As the children develop and mature they realize that doing wrong or doing right is not for punishment or rewards sake but instead for good moral sake.
Psychology of the Child: Early Childhood Education : Part 3
This series of articles will look at several aspects of development during the early childhood years which can affect the child psychologically.