A child’s path that leads to his/her adulthood in a holistic direction has got a lot to do with the moral values he/she learns when they are a child. Their emotion, mentality and physical maturity develops from their deep seated convictions of their worldview which are constructed by the moral values he/she has developed.
For example when one holds on to the moral value of self-control, the person’s emotional maturity will develop well. This is because whenever the person feels angry or impatient, he/she has become used to recognizing the emotion quickly and then starts to practice self-control.
If the person has the moral value of responsibility, he/she will have a matured mentality. This is because the moral value of responsibility is very extensive in one’s many areas of life. It can be being a responsible citizen by knowing your government and the opposition. Paying your taxes and contribute in your neighbourhood. It can be being a responsible father by ensuring the safety and future of the family is safe guarded. The list can go on and all of those take a lot of effort, commitment and sacrifice.
Most of the moral values are actually very much integrated with one another and may have effects applied across interchangeably in a person’s life. The adage “No man’s an island” bears much truth. When society fails to practice moral values, it will inexorably affect the other people in the society. Imagine if all the people in that society do not practice the moral values of forgiving, patience and tolerance; everyone will be waging war with one another!
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Frederick Douglass. Just as Frederick aptly puts it, it is indeed easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. That’s why the focus and attention placed in a child of its childhood years is of much importance. Even if the child did stray away in his/her adolescence years, there is a high probability that he/she may repent and revert back to what he/she has learned during the childhood years. But if there was never a foundation of moral values for the child to grow up with, trying to instill them in his/her adulthood can be a very tall order.
So how can a child learn these moral values? This question is indeed a tough one. Parents can serve as a great means of inculcating these moral values but humans aren’t perfect. If we push it one step further, the parents may learn its moral values through governing policies. If the government approves same-sex marriage, does that mean the parents should also conform and teach that to the child? How about government that approves policies which promotes injustice and give much space to practice corruption?
On one hand, most parents will say “let’s be thankful with what we have and not get involved”. But that contradicts the moral value of righteousness. Will the child see his/her parents as cowards or is actually convinced that this is what it means to be thankful when the actual truth is, it’s not?
So there is this sense of lacking in fidelity in where the moral values should be measured against whenever a new context arises in society. Many centuries ago, killing in the name of power and wellbeing does not contradict with any moral values. Today if you were to punch someone, you will be charged with battery and be fined or thrown to jail!
Ultimately, it is indeed good to work with how a child should learn his/her moral values first before what moral values should a child learn. If there is a good fidelity where one should measure against with his/her moral values; that fidelity should be one where it does not consist of vested interest. Post rationalizing is a very normal act of every human being; we always want to justify our behaviour and actions. When one starts to see his/her moral values in this perspective, it is indeed a lot easier to see if the nature of the moral value is altruistic or a mask behind selfishness or self-preservation.
Second, the fidelity should be timeless. It doesn’t change just because society wants it too, it stays true throughout eternity. This is where it becomes controversial because more and more people accuse that this is an imposition can come from religion praxis and teaching or a means of depriving human of their freedom of choice. But how can one have a freedom of a good choice if there are no strong undergirding moral values that lead to that choice? That “freedom” then becomes a chain of restriction to have the freedom of making good choices in life. However much we might debate, religions or the unique faith of Christianity (which emphasizes on the relationship with God as their creator) are the only few avenues that stands firm until today with its moral values that it brings.
Third, the fidelity should be universal. Relative truth does not work at all even though it is widely practiced today. “What works for you may not work for me and vice versa, but we can always agree to disagree”. Again, “No man is an island”. Can one say that he thinks that the moral value of sacrifice is not important at all and therefore he/she refuses to sacrifice for anything? If he is in a position to sacrifice in order to save thousands of lives, is his/her refusal therefore justifiable and must be respected at the expense of thousands of lives? Some may say this is taking it to the extreme but it does not change the fact that whatever moral values you practice or not will affect another person in society (or the world for that matter!)
Therefore, it is the parents’ role to help the child learn how to adopt the right moral values instead of merely telling them what to learn. When this is the fundamental basis of learning, come what may and they will be able to distinguish and sift through this well-structured system to see if its moral value worth adopting or to be challenged with.