Parents attracted to the Growing Families curricula tend to be cognizant of the important role that character training plays in a child’s development. These are parents who believe in the priority of moral education for their children, and view character training as a way of life and not simply window dressing added to a child’s personality. They desire to understand how to instill honesty, empathy, compassion, kindness, gentleness, respect, honor, and self-control in their children and find their answers in the “whole-child” approach to parenting shared by the Ezzos.
One of the great misconceptions relating to moral education is the belief that it is an isolated category of training, and as such, has little influence on the other categories of development. That is a very misguided assumption. To the contrary, instilling virtues, values, and behavioral expectations into children actually sets in place a critical cornerstone on which the “whole child” is built.
Parenting the “Whole-Child” reflects a child-rearing approach that considers the natural capacities of children as the primary targets of parenting. It is the counterweight to, on one hand, the unbalanced, child-centered, laissez-faire approach that elevates a child’s happiness over morality, and, on the other hand, the strictness of the authoritarian approach that regulates behavior often at the expense of a child’s developing emotions.
Derived from Mark 12:30, the “whole child” reference reflects a training perspective that considers the natural capacities of children as the primary targets of training. Here Jesus touches on a substantive truth of childhood development when describing how Christ Followers are to love God:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.
o The Heart represents man’s moral capacity. The duty of parents is to help their child internalize virtues that reflect God’s character.
o The Soul represents our emotional capacity (the seat of our consciousness). The duty of parents is to nurture their child’s emotional well-being. Parents help their children establish internal controls over both positive and negative emotions.
o The Mind represents man’s intellectual capacity. The duty of parents is to stimulate their child’s intellectual competency. Parents educate their children in basic skills, logic, and useful knowledge.
o Strength represents our physical capacities. The duty of parents is to nurture and provide for their children’s physical growth and well-being, including the development their children’s skills, giftedness and talents.
Although each capacity is in need of specific training, developmental evidence strongly suggests that only moral training has multiple corollary benefits that actually serve the other three capacities, and help bring them to maturity. Take, for example, the corollary impact moral training can have on a child’s cognitive ability—the ability to process information, think and reason well, and to be a problem solver.
In order for children to function at their highest potential, they need to acquire highly-developed habits of learning, which include foundational skills, such as sitting, focusing, concentrating, paying attention and persevering. Not surprisingly, these specific skills are embedded in the moral training process and become attributes that over time, are used in the service of the other three capacities. They are habits of moral logic easily transferred to the academic and skill side of a child’s developing mind.
However, the process does not work in reverse. Playing with blocks, putting puzzles together, and matching colors are important learning activities. Yet, these activities have value only to the extent that they are part of the learning process. Learning to count from one to ten, or picking out colors from a chart will not make your preschooler kinder, more self-controlled, or easier to manage. This realm of education has value, but the value is limited to the arena of knowledge and facts. It does not transfer to behavior.
In contrast, moral training not only influences behavior, but all aspects of a child’s expanding world of knowledge and subsequently, life itself. The mind, the emotions, talents and skills are all impacted by the quality and quantity of a Mom and Dad’s moral investment.
This article reprinted from www.growingfamiliesusa.com.