What are some aspects of relationships between parents and children that contribute to children's moral development?
Moral development pertains to the creation of our ideas about what people should do (or should not do), especially in relation to others (Santrock, 2019, p. 236). What is right and what is wrong?
A strong element of our moral development comes with our development of empathy, or the ability to understand another person's perspective. Interestingly, Piaget divided the development of a person's morals into phases (Santrock, 2019). The first stage is the stage of heteronomous morality which occurs between the ages 4 and 7 (Santrock, 2019). During this stage, rules seem unbending and absolute, and the world's morality appears rigid. Piaget proposes that between 7 and 10 years of age, there is a transition towards the the next defined phase, autonomous morality, and that children aged between 10 and 12 experiment with this new idea that rules are defined by people, and are therefore malleable (Santrock, 2019).
One of the most important thing in the relationship between a child and their parent during these phases of moral development is to find a way to maintain a positive relationship. It is vehemently suggested that parents be proactive in relationship with their children around limits and rules, giving them chances for success and helping them not to be in a position where they break the rules (Santrock, 2019). This allows them to become aware of rules, but not to feel inhibited by the rules' existence. It also gives the space for the parent to maintain authority without needing to exercise their power constantly.
Another clear suggestion to parents is to talk about emotions. Children that can identify and communicate their emotions are more likely to engage in prosocial behavior (Santrock, 2019, p. 239).
Which style or styles of parenting did your parents use in rearing you? What effects do you think their parenting styles have had on your development?
My parents reared me with a creative style of parenting. If I were to categorize them in Baumrind's parenting styles, they would fall into his "authoritative parenting" category (Santrock, 2019, p. 243). Authoritative parenting allows for the children to have a certain level of independence, while setting clear boundaries. The children are encouraged to engage in discussions around rules and there is a constructive approach to development, allowing negative behaviors to be a stepping stone for improvement and deeper understanding (Santrock, p. 243). I was lucky to have parents that shared a similar parenting style, and my childhood was fairly harmonious.
Their method of child-rearing allowed me to grow into an independent, confident and curious person. It has allowed me to engage thoughtfully with authoritative figures and be a good communicator when I feel that a rule is unfair or harmful. It has also allowed me to sit in a sense of self-worth and empowerment that sometimes plays out as cocky and privileged. My parents encouraged me to always think about my emotions before acting and engaging in discussions, which can be incredibly helpful in creating healthy collaborative environments, but also can disrupt expressions of deeper more impulsive emotions. At times, the way I was raised was wonderful because it allowed me to feel included in how my life would be structured, and in some ways, I think I may have been given too much responsibility in defining rules from a young age, and have few memories of a carefree environment in which I did not have the responsibility to maintain order in collaboration with my parents. This has meant that I am highly responsible today, and feel a great sense of need to control my environment. They taught me to parent myself, and a lot of my young adult life has been spent trying to relax these skills and embrace a more carefree, impulsive relationship to the world.
Santrock, J. W. (2019). Lifespan development (17th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.