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How To Teach a Child Right From Wrong

Updated on February 11, 2020
Ericdierker profile image

Eric started working with children when he was still one himself. He taught first aid through Scouting. All the way to preaching to youth.

And Off They Go

Too soon they are off and riding.
Too soon they are off and riding. | Source

Truth or Consequences

The “how to” part here is the message. The right and wrong part is more about asking questions. Right and wrong are learned. It is not suggested we know right and wrong from birth. A child presents new challenges. The child as you were must be taught right and wrong. What you think about how to teach a child what is right and wrong, I promise you that you will question your own notions more thoroughly.

Is it right for a 10 year old boy to steal a loaf of bread to help feed his starving 4 siblings and sick mother? So many better choices but has the boy been taught right and wrong with an absent dad and a sickly mother and four younger ones to care for. We do not know about you, but this one is tough.

Does getting what you want have anything to do with right and wrong? Can doing it for ourselves make a difference compared to doing it for others, no matter what? Today a boy asks what to do about a bully. Today he is told to say he does not like it and report it. In my youth we were told to punch him in the mouth. So I guess right and wrong changes. Do the same rules apply when it is another child being bullied? Or how about a parent or teacher bullying.

Wow how to know right and wrong can get tricky. Talk to another parent and realize all of us face the same issues. If someone told you parenting would be easy, they must have been talking about feeding, clothing and staying up all night with a feverish one. Compared to deciding what is right or wrong those are easy.

Hey if you are thinking this is all just hypothetical intellectual mumbo jumbo, do yourself two favors; Note that you are intelligent and make bad calls here not with your child. Here we just yack about it, but it should help us to do better in the little one’s very real world, for decades to come. And remember please that it is your real world for decades to come.

And please by all means feel easy about making a mistake. The rule of thumb there is to never be afraid or too proud to make adjustments as you see fit. My judgement when cooking, doing laundry, and helping with homework simultaneously you partner calls on que with something disturbing. Sure you can count on your judgement at such times – Not, but an answer may be required immediately. So fix it later. For sure that helps teach right and wrong.

Take It Easy

Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere

My elder son has made right choices for the most part -- blame it on his mom.
My elder son has made right choices for the most part -- blame it on his mom. | Source

Dirt or Hotel?

Now is a good time to address your own concepts of right and wrong. And we mean by that, you addressing them. I have an ex-wife who is just fantastic. One day we were chatting and I asked; “What would you like to change about yourself?” Her reply took me aback as she proclaimed that there was nothing. The true right and wrong never changes. But we had better continue to grow and hopefully that will create new perspectives of what that right and wrong really is. And starting with thinking about it for us will be of great help.

Imagine what it would be like to tell a young child to stop growing mentally. I think we could agree that would basically be a wrong thing to do. (Don’t get me wrong here, I tell my young son to stop growing up so fast;-)

Hopefully you have a partner. If not find your best friend. And ask them to sit down with you and go through your shared or not shared values. A funny for instance perhaps. My wife is a clean freak and I am a nature freak. We do not share the same values there. She would rather spend a night in a fancy hotel and I would rather spend a night in a sleeping bag in the dirt after a day of hiking.

That gets us to a very good space. Because we get to say “to me it is wrong to lay in dirt” or “it is wrong to waste money on fancy hotels”. Or the reverse; right to stay in hotel or right to sleep under the stars. Just three years ago the hotel was right for my boy, now nature and hiking is. How can it be right to bring a garden snake into the house? Well it is for a 10 year old boy but probably not for his mom.

So do’s and don’ts are often personal. We have to be careful there.

Someplace in a Jungle

Rubber tree plantation.
Rubber tree plantation. | Source

Maybe Keep This in Mind

Do's and Don'ts

Hopefully you have a partner. If not find your best friend. And ask them to sit down with you and go through your shared or not shared values. A funny for instance perhaps. My wife is a clean freak and I am a nature freak. We do not share the same values there. She would rather spend a night in a fancy hotel and I would rather spend a night in a sleeping bag in the dirt after a day of hiking.

That gets us to a very good space. Because we get to say “to me it is wrong to lay in dirt” or “it is wrong to waste money on fancy hotels”. Or the reverse; right to stay in hotel or right to sleep under the stars. Just three years ago the hotel was right for my boy, now nature and hiking is. How can it be right to bring a garden snake into the house? Well it is for a 10 year old boy but probably not for his mom.

So do’s and don’ts are often personal. We have to be careful there.

Act "Right"

Around here we say we can hate the action taken by, but not the man who did it. Hating another is wrong for us. I can understand that some people hate and have a right to but is it right? So much easier to speak of snakes. So our likes and dislikes are not the baseline. This is why we check in with another. Is it my “want to” or is it right to do?

We have to be ready to justify and not use a right thing as justification for a wrong thing. Religion and war come to mind. Or back to our boy with the bread. Do we get to beat up the bully?

We must teach the idea of right and wrong and not dictate it.

There is nothing wrong with “I don’t think that is right.” It is like giving the man a fish or teaching him “how to” fish. Telling your child what is wrong and right is fine as far as that goes and you should. But please take the time to tell him why you say so.

You do not want your child out it the world not knowing how to figure out what is right and what is wrong. I would bet that if our bread boy would have been taught that he would have grabbed a broom and cleaned up for the baker. Pick up some garbage. And only ask for “day old bread” (which is fine but does not taste as good or cost as much as freshly baked) we know the difference but without being taught the boy did not know the alternative to wrong. Who was there to tell him how to figure it out? Well who will be there when your daughter is pressured into wrong. Something you never could have foreseen. How does she decide what to do?

Teach, Don't Tell, You Still Have to Learn Too

She knows because you didn’t just answer but explained why when asked about right or wrong or doing right and wrong. And for sure you slowed down enough to explain yourself and work on “do as I do not as I say”.

Who is teaching whom here? If children bring out the best in us, the other way around is always true.

Books are great. Ton’s of them out there with reference to this. Me, I am a weirdo with a philosophy and law degree and a preacher man. I love codifications of religious and statutory law that tell us what we can and can’t do. If you read that stuff day in and day out like I do. You do not know better about right and wrong than a parent does.

That difference is about love. No one can love your child like you do. And if you take the time teaching how to decide right from wrong, you prove it.

Comments

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    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Hi Nithya, it is great to hear from you. This is such a cool area. As adults we grow and hopefully so does some clarity about right and wrong.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      17 months ago from Dubai

      We must teach and not dictate-so true. As parents we must take the time to show them right from wrong and guide them to the right path. Lots to think about and learn here, thank you for sharing.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thanks Bill, that is the finest compliment I can get. I appreciate your support.

      Back on to your coaching this week. I have missed it.

      Thanks

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      17 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      I usually walk away from your hubs with so much to think about. This one is no exception. I'll be pondering this for quite some time. Thank you, my friend!

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Tery thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Deciding might be toughest of all once a protocol is established for communication and time.

    • Tory Peta profile image

      Tery Peta 

      17 months ago from Bulgaria

      Teaching a child right and wrong can be a difficult task. Right and wrong also means different things for different parents. Parenting is not easy, but you have managed to bring some very valid points.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Right within three of us we have major issues of different backgrounds Dora. It is wonderful as we celebrate all three. Because of our demographics in our neighborhood and it's overwhelming diversity we are treated often by new notions and we notice them and love them.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Devika I think a great deal has to do with time. My children are my priorities. Maybe not so rich as if I focused more on money and support but it works around here.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Umesh you are so right. And don't tell anyone but I do play all the time with my son.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      17 months ago from The Caribbean

      Much food for thought. We were born into different backgrounds, and were given different messages. That's why our value systems do not always correspond; that's also why we should be tolerant of each other's choices.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      17 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      A valuable hub with all good points here. It is interesting of how you share such important points from parenting skills.

    • bhattuc profile image

      Umesh Chandra Bhatt 

      17 months ago from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India

      Splendid Eric, you have brought out certain points magnificently. I understand that teaching a child is no child's play.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Oh for sure Manitita, I am a happy ponderer. But mainly my favorite exercise is jumping to conclusions. Or maybe sidestepping an issue.

      A wonderful story you provide. I false pride and vainglory are often our demise. Shiva is a fine teacher.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Shaloo I like to say that when I point my finger at my son I have 3 more pointing right back at me. Example leading is tough and very humbling.

      Thanks for your great support.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Ruby after a tough go of it with cancer and horribly strong chemo -- I was told, I would be having no more children. Then Gabe is born. So I get to do do overs and my elder children love to say "that's not what you told us!!"

      I blame all their goodness on their mom.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      17 months ago from london

      You like to ponder? haha. Why not? Darkness is in reality a form of Light as there is only God … for you and I … and Bill, only Love. However, before we reach that state, duality exists.

      Trailanga Swami was fond of saying: "I am Shiva (God) and the disciple, a bit parrot-fashioned would say: "I am Shiva!" One day Trailanga Swami walked past a pot of hot molten lead. He said: "I am Shiva,' then drank the whole thing down. No problems!

      However, he asked the disciple to do the same. Realising he did not have that awareness his Master had, the disciple was embarrassed and from that day he stopped saying "I am Shiva.' Food for thought.

    • swalia profile image

      Shaloo Walia 

      17 months ago from India

      Your hubs always provide so much food for thought. If we want to teach our children about right and wrong or about moral values then we should ourselves set an example.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      17 months ago from Southern Illinois

      You know I do think opposites attract. I love to write, Ray does not. I detest hockey, he lives for the next game. We both love baseball. ( how did that happen? ) I wish I could have a do-over with teaching a child. I love this article, even though I realize I could have done a better job teaching. Thank you for all of your wise and down-to-earth-teaching.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Nikki I use to "do" yoga -- now I go and "try" to do it -- you would laugh. But progress.

    • nikkikhan10 profile image

      Nikki Khan 

      17 months ago from London

      Ohh! Someone is gonna work it hard through gym and yoga. Lol

    • clivewilliams profile image

      Clive Williams 

      17 months ago from Jamaica

      i see what you did there....

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Manatita it is a pleasure to ponder your comment. I will for days.

      Most humans are not "yet" beautiful or exquisite I think. As you speak of us being who we are by our past, then certainly how we view that past can be changed to the good.

      A wise Navajo friend and I were chatting about this. He asked me "what about now makes you think you were wrong then?" Hmm. I guess as a juvenile I was told my decisions were wrong. But now I should be happy that I made them as where I am now is very blessed indeed.

      So yes, perspective and time can change right or wrong. But the question then gets begged "does it really change it?".

      It is a funny thing to hypothecate about, making it harder than it is.

      That which does not seperate from our God of Love is good and right, the opposite is true too.

      Thanks friend for the extra insights.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      You maybe right Clive but it would be wrong to ask me.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Nikki you are spot on. The other day my boy referenced what I had done over a year ago. No words just what I had done making it the right way to do it. I had to explain some "if this then that and if that then this." I think I flailed at it.

      Healthwise, they dropped me from physical therapy, handed me a bunch of yoga and gym cards - ouch!

    • clivewilliams profile image

      Clive Williams 

      17 months ago from Jamaica

      I am still trying to figure out right from wrong as wrong maybe right and right maybe wrong

    • nikkikhan10 profile image

      Nikki Khan 

      17 months ago from London

      Write or wrong should be reflected, not be told. But still, kids learn many things from their elders' actions. We must be careful in our daily routine of lives to set a good example for them.

      Very significant matter you have told here, Eric.

      How are you getting on with your health?

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Namaste friend Manatita. I just finished reading Acts 9 (Saul into Paul)

      I will contemplate here and come back.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      17 months ago from london

      Yes, Bro.

      A big one, right and wrong and you have presented your arguments admirably!

      The nurse has to make a professional judgement and when the patient asks for the morpnine or pethidine every two hours and looks to be half asleep, some nurses ponder. Some patients are in genuine pain and others are not so clear cut.

      Yet Mc Caffery says that 'pain is what the patient says it is.' So one has to give the patient the benefit of the doubt, within reason, of course.

      Vivikananda, the great Seer of Dakshineswar, says that right is anything that makes you strong, wrong is anything that makes you weak, right is that which facilitates or takes us to the Light and wrong to the darkness. Good guides.

      I like what your x wife said. It is a very wise statement. Does the beautiful vase say that it should not have been molded? Does the exquisite rose, criticize its thorn?

      I am where I am, because of my past experiences and without them, I'll most certainly be different, but not necessarily wiser. It is the old story of 'regrets' or no 'regrets.'

      A well-written and discerning piece. Salaam!

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Flourish you are so right. The little ones catching you off base and it is a game. A great game to learn so much if the time and communication are there. Boy I learn a lot from it.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Really interesting point Linda. Complication or simplification. I think for sure in a transition from life without love to life in love it is very complicated. Just for fun -- the silly romantic comedies. But after a bit it is more reflexive and is natural.

      Hmmm, in child development? Thanks for a great notion to work on.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thank you Denise for making that point real clear. I think that is one parents need to evaluate. Civility in discussion will allow this to be revealed.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      17 months ago from USA

      Children are always looking and learning from what we do as well as listening from what we say. They’re also contrasting how sometimes there are mismatches.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      17 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, few things in life are black and white, unless of course you tackle life without love in your heart. Love complicates our decision-making process, doesn't it (in a good way)? Our children learn by observing.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 

      17 months ago from Fresno CA

      There are so many grey areas where it isn't about right and wrong as it is about preference. But I agree that it needs to be taught by example and not just told.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Bill I would just assume that of a child you raised up. I'll bet he uses the love test like you and me. If it is not done with a loving influence it is probably wrong.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Vidya, with my little one he is already making distinction on what is right to eat and right for the environment. He is still missing on the right not to do his extra reading :-)

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thank you good friend John. I think I corrected the problem. You try to publish as the morning rush for work and school begins :-) And thanks for your constant support.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      17 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Right on, Bro! I must have done something right along the way, because my son gets it!!!

    • vidsagster profile image

      VIDYA D SAGAR 

      17 months ago

      Great article Eric. Children observe and learn by example than by teaching. So when the parents follow the right path, the children tend to follow. And it is always better to explain the pros and cons and consequences of any action and let the children decide for themselves to make the choice. They invariably tend to make the right choice.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      17 months ago from Gondwana Land

      You sure make some good points here, Eric, and it certainly isn’t straight forward, or easy to teach a child right from wrong. The boy stealing the bread to feed his starving siblings was a good example. We do need to explain why something is right or wrong and try to give them the tools to work out solutions. (“Dirt or Hotel” and “Do’s and Dont’s” have the first two paragraphs the same by the way.)

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