The form that children’s moral education should take and value to be taught are controversial among parents and educators. Some people argue that moral development and a sense of caring are values to be fostered at home rather than at school. Some feel that a few simple behaviors such as how to share and how to say thank you are sufficient. Others focus on the development of self esteem. Some also believe in providing a maximum amount of independence for children to work out their own social arrangements and disputes. Some just worry about the scores and only focus on their children’s achievement in term of academic and rewards. We might teach them reading, writing, math, and computer skills. We might teach them about business, history, and geography. But if we neglect to teach them to be caring and compassionate, have we really given them all they need in their lives?
Yet we all know that children must learn to act in certain socially acceptable ways to get along well in society and to maintain a healthy sense of self. For example, they must learn to follow certain rules of etiquette while eating, to use the bathroom appropriately, and to express their feelings of anger and frustration without hurting others. In fact morality involves more than thinking, so does it involves more than a set of behaviors. Morality is the standards of right behavior that may affect how people treat and think about us. It is a part of religion belief and social judgement. Moral education involves identifying those right behaviors and then training children accordingly. Morality runs much deeper than behaving according to the rules set down by others. Morality includes a sense of justice, compassion, and caring about the feeling of others. It also includes perspective-taking ability – that is, the ability to discern how someone might be thinking or feeling. Morality itself is a developmental process that may acquire consistency. Acquiring good manners takes lots of practice and reinforcement, so it is very essential to make sure that the people involved are in the same boat encouraging same behavior. As positive moral characteristics do not appear instantly, addressing our cultural moral crisis will take the commitment and involvement of many elements of society, including early childhood education.
While some people may think that preschool children aren’t cognitively or emotionally ready to be concerned about anyone but themselves, research and the reality indicate otherwise. Caring behavior becomes evident during the first year of life. Many infants show signs of distress when another baby cries, and toddlers become uneasy when another child gets hurt. Such behaviors indicate a sense of caring and the ability to take the perspective of someone other than self. Helping children grow in this perspective-taking ability should be a major goal of moral education at the early childhood level. Therefore; early childhood education should address the moral development of the child, especially the caring and compassionate aspects of morality.
written by Yenti Handala,
Center Director of Tutor Time Pluit