Morals come from an outside source. They are supplied to us- think legal codes, the Ten Commandments, that sort of thing. Someone else has decided what is right and wrong for us, and we are to follow the "moral code" proscribed by our culture, society, or religion.
Ethics, on the other hand, come from an internal process. An ethical person has a much harder row to hoe, because they must look at all the variables of a situation- everyone's story and feelings, the law, religious ideas, who could be hurt in any given situation, etc. Then the ethical person must make the best choice in any given situation, regardless of what the law or any particular religion says about right or wrong.
Let me elaborate: Back when I was a budding educator, I studied child development and learned about Piaget's scale of "moral development". He outlined several stages that children go through (hopefully) to develop as fully thinking human being. The first stage is "premoral" and states that kids up to about five years don't understand that there are rules at all. (And Rowan and I are so right there right now. Toddlers and rules- hah!)
|An example of Evangelical Christian |
moralism, aimed at kids.
The last stage is "moral relativity". It can start around age seven, so it can overlap with that second stage for some. "Children who have reached this stage recognise that rules are not fixed, but can be changed by mutual consent, and they start to develop their own internal morality which is no longer the same as external rules. A major development is that actions are now evaluated more in terms of their intentions, which most people would see as a more sophisticated view of morality. Piaget also thought it was during this stage that children develop a firm concept of the necessity that punishment specifically fits the crime."
Now, I don't think Piaget is the be-all and end-all by any means, but I do think that he had a great idea here. However, I see so many people that never make it into that last "shades of gray" discernment stage. They get stuck in the avoidance of punishment/seeking of rewards mode of thinking that comes with "moral realism" for their whole lives. In my opinion they never become ethical adults, merely moral ones. I do not wish this for Rowan.
So one of the ways that I am making this happen from a parenting standpoint is what attachment parents call "gentle (or positive) discipline". I instill discipline in Rowan, not inflict it upon him. (The root of discipline is the same root for "disciple"- I believe that we misuse this world by making it a synonym for punishment in our culture.) Gentle discipline means no violence, for one thing. No spanking, no threats. I wish to teach him that violence is not the correct way to get a desired outcome- so why would I use it to get what I want from him as a parent?
Do you use gentle discipline in your home? Why or why not? What are your reasons?