Personally, I believe that people are good, as long as nobody messes with their minds. In my opinion, empathy, learning, and critical thinking should be widely used to protect ourselves and others from bullies and manipulators. The author of this article argues that people can be bad unless they are taught ethics from a very early age. Controversy and dialogue are the basis of the civilized society, so I will publish this well-written post by Mary Whitman as-is and let you choose your own position. You are welcome to comment.
People are not born good. People are born selfish, self-absorbed, greedy, unfeeling, careless, and merciless. Most of this is due to our survival instincts. If that is hard to imagine, then try to think of baby birds in a nest. A human baby cannot show kindness, compassion, or empathy because it has not been taught such concepts. In fact, up until the age of 4, your child cannot even think laterally. That is why your child may figure out how to climb up and reach the cookies but has no idea that the sound of the packet rustling will alert you. Things like compassion, kindness, and empathy need to be taught to a child. The later you wait, then the harder it becomes to teach a child these qualities. To be more specific, the longer you wait, the harder it is to break their habits of being greedy, unfeeling, etc.
Sidenote – Consistency Is More Important Than Potency
Your children are going to change a great deal as your they grow into adults. Do not overly focus on one attribute your child exhibits, but instead focus on consistently demonstrating and teaching ethical lessons to your children.
This point is brought up because of one parent who was distressed that every time her child was given a cold drink, the child drank up every drop right away. The parent mistook this as greediness and kept focusing on it, much to the child’s confusion and distress. As a test, the child was asked to pour cold drinks for all four of a group of children, which included a glass for himself. The child gave everybody else a full glass but gave himself half a glass. It turns out that the child simply thought that having a drink meant having to drink it all in one go, which is why he gave himself half a glass to make the task easier. It had nothing to do with greediness.
Selfish, Self-Absorbed, Greedy, Unfeeling, Careless, And Merciless
When do these traits go away? For some children and some adults, these traits never go away. Think of somebody you know who is greedy. That person has been greedy his or her entire life because that is how the child started out and the child was never taught any different.
Do you know somebody who is self-absorbed? Maybe you knew that person through your childhood. Do you ever remember that parent saying, “Think of other people first” to that child? Did you ever hear the parent praise the child for thinking of others first? You didn’t hear the parent saying these things, and that is why the child has grown up and remained self-obsessed. What is most annoying to well-adjusted people is that the self-obsessed person doesn’t know how inappropriate/misguided he or she is, and that is because such people have been like that all their lives and they do not know anything different. Trying to teach a self-obsessed adult to be different is harder than teaching you that gravity only exists on Fridays.
Where Does Early Childhood Education Fit into This Web Of Moral Decay?
It is not moral decay because there were no morals there to start with. Parents who believe their child is born good and innocent will often forgo lessons on kindness, love, and compassion, and will then be confused later in life when their adult child is on his/her fifth marriage and never calls home to ask how they are. Children have no morals, and they know nothing of the good things in this life, which is why it is your job to teach them.
Ever wondered why only children with no siblings are often more greedy and hoard more when they enter playschool/kindergarten? It is not because they are bad children, it is because their parents have had fewer opportunities to force lessons upon the child about sharing and how possessions are not a priority.
Where Does Parenting Fit In?
As a parent, you need to be involved with teaching your child as soon as possible. The parent is the one who lays the groundwork so that children learn better when they enter playschool/kindergarten. It may sound silly teaching a 2yr old, 3yr old, 4yr old about morality, but even the simplest lessons will help the child in later life.
For example, showing a child that he or she may hand something to you, and that sometimes you will give it back and sometimes you will not, is a great lesson for young minds. Handing something over as a present and teaching your child to do the same is a great lesson. Plus, you cannot forget the subtle lessons you are giving your child. For example, when you are both playing with a ball on the floor, e.g. she/he rolls it to you and you roll it back, your child is learning about your body language, manner, and tone of voice. Your child will be able to later recognize children who exhibit these signals and may consider them friends. On the same token, a child who is devoid of these signals, such as an angry child, will set off alarm bells in your child’s head that may help your child avoid getting knocked over by the angry child.
Shouldn’t Playschool/Kindergarten Be Teaching Ethics Lessons?
It is vitally important that your child gets early childhood education so that he or she is better able to function as an academic in later life. Simple moral lessons are taught in early years education, such as “Don’t hit him with that” and “Now be quiet so Jenny can talk.” However, the groundwork for such lessons needs to be laid at home.
Early years education is also fantastic for the same reason that high school is fantastic because both force children to learn social lessons by default. Put children in the same location, and they learn lessons about each other. They learn about how others may hurt and help them, they learn interpersonal skills, and they learn how to make friends. There are plenty of times when a parent has failed in his or her task of teaching morality, but a child has learned such morals at school. Such as how children who suffer domestic abuse tend to repeat their behavior in school, and yet some abused children watch others getting beaten in school and learn that hurting others is wrong (despite the contradictory problems at home).
Early Years and High-School Years Goals
Teaching morality will set your child on the right path, but you need to continue those goals into your child’s teenage years. The sheer number of parents who call their 14yr old girl their best friend is staggering, and they often do it because girls appear to mature faster than boys, but this is just not the case. Girls are simply less exuberant than boys at an earlier age, girls still require the reinforcement of certain ethical codes. They need to see examples of correct ethics.
People claim that women always end up marrying men who are like their father, which may or may not be true, but it stands to reason since children are still looking to their parents for examples of morality into their teen years. Children still need reminding that things such as being selfish, self-absorbed, greedy, unfeeling, careless, and merciless are bad things. The assumption that they are mature now and that they know these lessons already are why some teenagers seem to go off the rails unexpectedly. Or, even why some students hog all the AssignmentGeek discounts and leave no writers left over for the other students.
Early Years Lessons Must Continue
The odd thing about the Western mentality is that parents see it fit to reward kindness and sharing with praise when a child is young. Johnny shares his candy with Suzy, and everybody thinks it is adorable. Yet, parents in the West seem to shift their focus as a child gets older. Suddenly, a child is praised heavily for being good at sports, for academic achievement, and for looking good. Things such as kindness, caring, empathy, and a positive spirit are very rarely acknowledged and rewarded as much as sports prowess and academic achievement.
What is most distressing is that the child has the rug pulled from under them. The child has gone from having a parent being pleased with his/her happy attitude, or kindness, or moral logic, to a parent pressuring him/her for good grades and/or sporting success. Suddenly, the focus has shifted, and children don’t understand why what they were good at (i.e. being a good person) is no longer a rewarded commodity. Plus, the change for a child is sometimes so abrupt that a whole host of potential problems arise. Suddenly, a child is feeling bad for visiting Nana to do some vacuuming and is feeling worse for not getting good grades last fall.
Conclusion – A Twisted Web of Human Development
This article didn’t bang on about how children learn math better if they are taught at an early age, or how earlier academic learning helps children do better in school at a later date. This article concentrated on the fundamental and most important elements of human development during early years education, and it showed just how devastated a child’s life can be if early years education does not occur. Remember that children are not born good because the nature of survival demands it, and it is up the parents, and later the playschool/kindergarten environment, to teach a child to stop being selfish, etc. Nobody is saying that a child is born evil and therefore deserves to be punished, it is just that a child is born with several instinctive personality traits that need to be taught out of the child if he or she is to lead a full and happy life.
About the author
Mary Whitman is a writer and editor based in Adelaide, South Australia. At her odd moments, she is taking full advantage of creative writing and blogging.