No matter where your children go to school or what age they are, there is one lesson they must have for their future happiness and success — and it's one only parents can teach properly.
This is the time of year when children worldwide begin anew learning secular subjects like history, math and reading for school. But we must not forget that there are moral lessons to be learnt as well —lessons of right and wrong, good and bad, and true and false. If we leave children to their own devices, they will learn these lessons from their peers, teachers, media and textbooks — but they are most effectively taught by parents.
Understanding Moral Learning
Morality — the understanding of what is right and wrong, good and bad, and true and false — is at the foundation of all learning. Even if a person doesn’t want to teach their child morality, that decision is a moral in and of itself.
There is no way to separate morality from learning. If a child reads a book at school it will have a moral in it. Some books teach children to love animals; some books teach children that it’s normal to not like a sibling; and some books teach children that vampires are people too and shouldn’t be feared. The list can go on and on.
The moral or amoral conduct of peers also teaches lessons to our children about what is appropriate social and sexual behavior. And the teacher’s responses to social and sexual discussions and situations happening in the classroom, on the playground, and in the halls also teach our children about how they should respond to and mentally process these moral lessons.
I've been teaching the principles to families for more than 19 years, and I’ve learned that teaching that omits moral lessons is meaningless to the learners. Children crave moral instruction. Think of how small children are obsessed with determining who is wrong or at fault, and who was right while playing with their friends.
I’ve also found that teaching that involves discussion, writing, or reading materials cannot steer clear of moral content. How can a discussion happen with no right or wrong? How can a good paper be written standing only on middle ground? No significant transformation or inspiration can happen without a right and wrong.
Morality is often associated with religion. Many people think that if a person presents a moral during instruction by declaring some action or way of thinking as wrong, then the person must be pushing religious views on another. Don’t be fooled by this assumption.
When a teacher or person refuses to identify something as wrong or right, that is also moral instruction. The moral lesson taught in this case is that there is no right or wrong, and that morals are not ideas worth being concerned with. Some people believe in the doctrines of faith while others believe in the doctrines of society. Both are religions.
While people worldwide conscientiously try to not ruffle feathers by not talking about if it’s okay or not to have sexual relationships at young ages, they seem to have no problem emphatically declaring that humans must protect the rights of animals. Animal rights statements are sermons for a group of people who feel a deep conviction to love and protect animals.
I hope it’s easy to see that a statement about an endangered species is just as much a moral statement as a statement about sexual conduct or dishonesty.
The Lesson of All Lessons
Since all learning is intrinsically moral in purpose, parents must make sure to constantly engage in the learning discussion.
When a child participates in the learning process like reading a book, parents should be there to discuss it chapter by chapter. They should talk with their kids about their homework, read their papers, and look over the texts in the books their kids are reading to look for opportunities to discuss moral lessons. I this seems like a significant time investment, but following the moral discussions your children are engaging in has never been more important.
As a public speaker and author, I know without a doubt that everyone has an agenda. This doesn’t mean everyone is a villain or is out to hurt a child, a faith or a family, but they do have ideologies they hold dear. They feel these ideologies will help all the people in their sphere of influence. Even teachers in our children’s church classes can and do present social lessons that might not fit into our personal definitions of what is true and false. The teacher is not trying to lead children astray — they’re simply following their own social agenda.
The lesson that trumps all other is how to discern between right and wrong, good and evil, and true and false. It's something that can't be taught in one sitting. It gives education focus and purpose, and it must be learned piece by piece.
To teach a child correct morals, parent needs to be regularly engaged in moral conversation with their child. Throughout history, American families have enjoyed a tradition of quality family time, whether it be as simply as eating dinner together and discussing the day or participating in religious activities like family prayer and scripture study. Why would our society do this? Simple — to keep children pointed in the right direction throughout their most influential learning years.
This is a tradition that seems to be waning as families find themselves too busy to spend quality time one with another. Some ideas for (re)incorporating this into your family including reading an uplifting book as a family (books by C.S. Lewis are a great resource), doing family history together, discussing current events — all of these will provide families with opportunities to discuss the moral nature of the world.
In our day of YouTube, email, computer games and streaming movies, parents need to also pick apart and discuss the morals and messages being presented on digital platforms outside of the classroom. It's important for them to set standards about why certain themes or ideas are not congruent with their family standards.
There is a new worldview taking root in our society to convince people that there is no right or wrong, no good or bad, no true or false. It’s called moral relativism. This idea suggests that if a person wants to do it, that individual's desire makes it right. It essentially transforms each person into their own personal God, making them accountable to no one. The irony of this philosopy is that while it suggests that there is no such thing as right and wrong, it says that a person who believes in morals as defined by God is wrong. Erroneous, popular ideas like this one need to be discussed and understood in family units.
When a child fully understands and can articulate reasons for moral absolutes, then a child knows the Master of goodness they are now duty bound to serve: God. And as the saying goes, “No man can serve two masters.”
Without Right And Wrong, There Is No Freedom
The United States of America was founded on a religious, moral foundation. It was believed that if our society could stay moral, we could remain a free people. The obvious lack of religious, moral discussion is not a good sign for our future freedom. However, each child represents a new opportunity to promote freedom again by teaching moral absolutes at home.
The moral center of any civilization ebbs and flows. The American people, as well as any other nationality of people, develop a way of thinking about certain things that never stays constant, as ideas and people are ever changing. This is why social morality shifts so drastically, and so often.
One of our founders, Alexander Hamilton, said, “The voice of the people has been said to be the voice of God; and however generally this maxim has been quoted and believed, it is not true to fact. The people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determine right.”
The only way to keep your children from shifting with the social moral tide is to establish your own family morality based on God’s morals. Have this be a big part of your school year, and your children will be happier and less likely to fall into the social traps society has created.
This year, as you start preparing for the lessons the schools and the media have prepared for your family, do some preparing of your own. Teach your children how to question statements and ideas. Teach them how to find the truth from God. There is no greater lesson a person could learn than how to recognize truth. I have often said to my friends, “I don’t care as much if my child never learns math. What I care about is if they learn what is right and wrong, good and bad, and true and false. This understanding will set them apart in the world as a person who knows, while others are lost.”
To learn about the Peck Family Standard, which is one way we teach morals to our family, read “Parenting A House United.”