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Raising Morally-upright Children

A child psychiatrist shares her insights on the controversial issue of supposed child exploitation and how to provide children with a good moral foundation.

familyRecent events in popular media have put a 6-year old child in the spotlight and caused a stir among children’s rights advocates.

The incident has opened the eyes of many on the situation of children, not only in the entertainment sector, but in the home, too. Who is taking responsibility for them? Are parents living up to their duties? At what age can a child tell right from wrong?

According to Dr. Anna Vazquez-Genuino, a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at the Makati Medical Center, a child’s moral development undergoes many stages. “From age 7 to 8, [if he was taught well by his parents] a child will know right from wrong, but may bend the rules when you’re not looking. By age 9 to 10, the child will have reached a higher level of maturity and will follow the rules even if no one is watching. He would have some sense of social order by this age”.

However, she says that at some point between age 7 and 9, a child will "want to please" the people around him. “For example, even if he knows that doing a certain deed is wrong but still he sees that he elicits laughter when he does it, he will continue doing it because it makes people he trusts and loves happy. His sense of right or wrong depends on pleasing these people.” Therefore, parents and guardians of little children should watch themselves and make sure they do not send the wrong message to them.

She notes, too, that moral development is not totally dependent on age, “You could be 60 and not act like it.” While it is true that an individual is the sum total of all his knowledge and experiences, including those which he will acquire later in life, the values taught at home during his younger years become the foundation for his character. Therefore, parents must fulfill their duties to bring up their children well. She gives parents the following reminders:

1. Be present. A child needs the support of a parent figure. Being present in your child’s day-to-day activities gives him a sense of belonging.
2. Be consistent. Role modeling is a more effective way to teach a child. Show a good example. If you say one thing but do the other, they will see the inconsistency and they will just follow what you do instead of what you say. Get your act together.
3. Communicate. Get to know your child, impart to him what you know. Listen.
4. Make time. Be available, especially when your child needs you.

Click here to read more about raising morally upright children.

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