Surprising truth about Morality development in kids.

Surprising truth about Morality development in kids.


  1. Introduction:
  2. Moral, Social and Personal Choices?
  3. What is Morality? –  Definition
  4. How moral values develop in your child – Age wise
  5. Theories on Moral development in kids
  6. Ideas to Parents to build moral values in children
  7. Conclusion


Developing good moral values in our children is of paramount interest for every parent.

Lack of building sound moral value system in our child can lead to too many embarrassing situations for the parents during early childhood years. It can get the child into serious trouble in their adult life

It goes without saying that moral values are important in life and if the foundations are not late properly in a child’s life the child will find it very difficult later to differentiate between good and bad.

This will also reflect poorly on the child character and upbringing. This can have serious impact in the relationships the child has. As well as impact social and professional life.

Moral, Social and Personal Choices?

In the early days of childhood, most of the children can differentiate between moral or social rules and personal choices.

The social norms can define as the rules that are related to social behaviors that may be wrong or right. Violating these rules might affect other people. For example, Jack knows that fighting or hitting Tom is morally wrong because it will hurt Tom and will make him cry.

The children have developed a better understanding between the moral and social rules, and they prefer their personal choices.

These children can take many possibilities into account when thinking about the results of different behavior.

For example, Jack goes for football practice. He got busy there and he did not get enough time to solve his algebra homework. Now he knows it better that it is not worth it if he copies, his friend’s homework and submit it. (e.g., a moral rule).

He also knows that if he giggles and tickles his sister during a religious service which is inappropriate (e.g., a social rule).

Finally, he decides to go outside on a chill day without warm clothes (e.g., a personal choice).

What is Morality? –  Definition

“Teaching kids to count is fine but teaching them what counts is best.” —Bob Talbert

Morality is the ability of the child to draw a line between right and wrong.

Morality guides their actions, thoughts, attitude, and behavior towards others.

The age 2 to 7 Yrs. are termed as the formative ages of moral development. To help your children, discern between what is right and wrong, it is vital that we need to begin to lay a strong foundation of morality in their early years.

Promoting childhood moral development is the key to bringing up compassionate and emotionally sound human beings.

How moral values develop in your child – Age wise

Young children try to behave morally this might be due to the fear of parents and teacher so they can avoid any type of punishment.

At early stages children minds are usually in development stages and they do not know how to cope with situations, so they take maximum precautions to avoid any type of trouble.

During preschool years you kid is only starting to develop a sense to differentiate between the right and wrong, good, and bad. But it would be too much if we would expect pre-school children to do the right thing in the right way all the time.

Children between the ages 6 and 7 are habitual to think in terms of distributed justice. For example, your 6-year-old will expect you to divide a jar of chocolates equally among all children. Mighty even pick up an argument or ask for an explanation if a child is not given chocolate or a child gets more. This sense of morality is called distributive justice.

At the age of 7 or 8, children begin to think that what people have worked or earned for while keeping in mind about the justice. Children also give reasons that some people tend to get more than others because of their hard work.

As children grow older, they develop more formal ways of thinking that leads them to become less focused. They form more complex rules and apply them for shared objectives and to cooperate.

Theories on Moral development in kids

Before we go any further let us first gain some insights from famous theories on moral development.

I know you might ask why we should and cannot we just get to the fun stuff. Why should we know the theory?

Hold on, I strongly believe that fundamentals are very important and when we understand, at least on a broad level what the experts have theorised then we can understand better the process of moral development in our child. This will also help us customise our teaching to our kids accordingly and effectively.

There are many theories in moral development. In this blog we will touch upon on a very higher-level relevant parts of the top 2 famous theories only. Theories namely…

1.  Piaget’s theory of moral reasoning

  • Kohlberg’s theory of moral development


Piaget’s theory of moral reasoning

Jean Piaget proposed Piaget’s theory of moral reasoning. In his quest to understand how children develop moral reasoning 3 found out that they were 2 main differences in how children displayed moral thinking. He classifies them as

  1. Heteronomous morality (moral realism)
  2. Autonomous morality (moral relativism)

In this blog we will cover only Heteronomous morality as that is more relevant to the age group that we are trying to address in this blog.

Heteronomous morality: He found that very young children (up to the age of 9 yrs.)  displayed moral behaviour according to their perception how their actions would affect them.

For example, if one child beats another child ones and the other child beats 3 times children will classify the second child to be more not naughtier that the first. Similarly, if one child eats10 chocolate is and lies about it, while another child it is too chocolate’s and lie about its children will perceive the first one to be a liar then the second.

While in both the above examples the intention of both the parties involved were wrong but children tend to judge basis the outcome rather than the intention.

For children rules or unchangeable. They are set by figures in authority. They are taught by parents, teachers, and elders of the house. Children do not dispute this or make up their own rules. They try their best to play by the rules that is already set by the family.

Note to parents: Now you can easily understand why your little one is always called a “complaint box” by the older children. That is because young children tend to ‘tell’ on others.

They believe that they need to tell the truth when they are asked. Irrespective of what the social or relationship status they have with the wrong doer or the intention behind the wrongdoing. For the little on rules are blacker and whiter and are meant to be followed. Failing which there will be punishment.

When you ask a child a punishment that is appropriate for the misbehaviour. They usually tend to give a harsher punishment suggestion. For them, a miss behaviour needs to warrant a punishment. More in terms of an eye for an eye.

Note to Parents: Therefore, when you do not correct a child for their misbehaviour right when it happens. They perceive that it is alright to commit the act. And their moral compass takes an exception. They will repeat it again and this time when you correct them, they will get confused.

Piaget called this “moral realism with objective responsibility.”

Kohlberg’s theory of moral development

Developmental psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg takes queues from Piaget’s work and framed stages of moral understanding theory. He also believed like we get that young children here a 30 and try to evade punishment.

Slowly by school going age children start to understand and differentiate between good and bad behaviour.

Kohlberg stages of moral understanding theory has 6 stages,

These stages are.

Stage 1 Punishment avoidance and obedience.

Stage 2 Exchange of favours.

Stage 3 Good boy or Good girl

Stage 4 Law and Order

Stage 5 Social contract

Stage 6 Universal ethical principals

For the scope of the blog we will speak more about stage 1 – 3.

These stages are in line with the age group that we are addressing in this blog which is from 0 to around 9 years.

In stage one which is usually around infancy to about 2 years. The main moral decisions come from the fact kid wants to avoid punishment. The kid finds no pleasure in doing what is right of the motivator is avoiding punishment.

Main View of the kid at this stage will be: Can I avoid punishment?

Stage 2: This stage is usually around 2 to 4 or 5 years of age. Here the motivation of the child is to get a reward. It is of little wonder why a pre-schooler will do anything to get a small reward. And it would be pretty much the first thing that you will hear your kids say or show to you.  A reward can be anything from a small star or a Smiley or small badge for good behaviour.

Tip to parents: Since at this stage of moral values gets developed through positive reinforcement you would be doing much better for your kid if you reward them for acceptable behaviour and patiently guide them when they do otherwise

Main View of the kid at this stage will be: What is it for me?

Stage 3: This stage is usually around 5 to 8 or 9 years of age.  In this stage the child strives to be socially accepted. The motivation of the child is to be accepted in relationships.

Tip to parents: Since at this stage of moral values gets developed through social acceptance. It is very important that our children are in environment that has the same value system as ours.

E.g. The school the kid goes to, the peers/ friends the kid chooses all hold similar value systems so that our kid is not conflicted.

Children also start magnifying the moral choices they see their close ones take and strive to get a brownie point from them by way of being called a good boy/ good girl.

Main View of the kid at this stage will be: What is it for me?

Ideas to Parents to build moral values in children with practical tips

We have put together some influencers of morel value development in your child. We have attempted to explain them and give some tips for parents along the way.

Learning By experience: Choice and Positive Discipline:

Going through some of the phases of the life young children develops the ability to differentiate between right or wrong. For example, Sam understands that when Mom says, “no candies before dinner” and luckily there is a pack of candies lying on the table, now it is his choice to grab one or not.

Most children will be delaying self-gratification (i.e. hold off doing things that will feel good in the moment) so they can make good choices.

This is the new moral ability which can be cultivated by positive discipline.

Parents must highlight children’s “good choices” and “bad choices” and should not labeled them as good or bad.

Tip to Parents: Giving a high five, Hug, Pat, Clapping/ Cheering, offering praise to the child or praising the child behavior by telling another adult while the child is listening. Will all add to positive reinforcement.

Influence of Environment:

The environment of children exert influence on their moral development in different ways.

Morality comes in children through interactions with their environments. Right from early life children have an abundance of morally relevant experience.

For morality, virtually any type of social interaction is a relevant experience.

E.g. Most of the infants interact with those people who help them or comfort them either by feeding them or responding on their cry. An infant who lacks moral experiences would not get proper development.

Adult modeling, family and social values, religious values, and beliefs, and of course the parenting practices, they must all play a part which helps in shaping morality of the child.

Story Telling to improve Moral behavior:

We would have all heard moral stories when we were children. Be it the Hare and the tortoise or how Alexander the Great conquered the world.

When we heard the stories of real-life heroes, we aspired to be like them.

While the story not only instils moral values into our children but also gives them guidance to live life the right way. Face obstacles as and when they meet them as they grow up and during their adult life.

What I see, I do:

Most of the children carefully watch the behavior of their adults and caretakers. If they see Uncle Tom being helpful to any stranger, so they try to copy this habit and they will be more likely to help others.

Correction at the right time – every time:

Parenting practices and discipline has a huge effect on a child’s morality. For example, if Sarah gets in trouble for taking out the change from Mom’s coin jar, she will learn that stealing is okay, because she does not get any punishment for that.

But if she learns that she will be charged with fair consequences whenever she takes money from coin jar, so she will learn that stealing is not okay, so she will understand that stealing is never okay and may lead to any penalty.

Few Tips to Parents:

  • Instill Guilt, but NEVER Shame. (Shame stems from thinking, “I am bad.”, Guilt stems from thinking, “I did a bad thing.”).
  • Hold the child accountable with a consequence such as … Apologizing, Quite corner etc. NO corporal punishment/ child abuse will be given.


This article provides you with the information about early moral development.

This article provides you with an easy approach to early moral development. We have tried to provide you with the best of tasks. Which you baby will need to get a sustainable growth? Transitions in early moral development usually involves genetic, environmental, and social cognitive factors.

In the areas of helping researches that tends to connect early behavior with good judgments about helping and caring in childhood would be nice. To extend our research on morality especially in intergroup contexts, we must document the factors which will enable children to challenge inequalities and any means of unfair treatment would be vanish.

We at the Yellow Playschool believe that Morality helps our children in their inner balance and brings in beauty and dignity in their life which in turn help them to exemplary adults in society.

We hope this blog has been helpful to you. If so, Show us love by sharing it with your friends and loved ones so together we can make the world a better place one step at a time.

Give us an instance when you child was faced with a moral decision and what did they chose? Leave in your comments below.

God Bless!!

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