Moral Intelligence

Moral intelligence is the capacity to understand right from wrong; it means to have strong ethical convictions and to act on them so that one behaves in the right and honorable way.

This wonderful aptitude encompasses such essential life characteristics as empathy, conscience, self-control, respect, kindness, tolerance and fairness. These are the core traits that will help your child become a decent, good human being; they are the bedrock of solid character and strong citizenship and they are ones we want most for our kids.

It’s increasingly apparent that a number of kids are in serious trouble because they’ve never acquired moral intelligence. With only flimsy consciences, poor impulse control, underdeveloped moral sensitivity and misguided beliefs, they are greatly handicapped. Although the causes of moral decline are complex, one fact is undeniable: the moral atmosphere in which today’s kids are being raised is toxic to moral intelligence for two major reasons. First, a number of critical social factors that nurture moral character are slowly disintegrating: adult supervision, models of moral behavior, spiritual or religious training, meaningful adult relationships, personalized schools, clear national values, community support, stability and adequate parenting. Second, our kids are being steadily bombarded with outside messages that go against the very values we are trying to instill. Both factors are contributing greatly to our kids’ moral demise, as well as to their loss of innocence.

Excerpted and adapted from Building Moral Intelligence: The Seven Essential Virtues That Teach Kids to Do the Right Thing by Michele Borba, Ed.D . (2001)

For further consideration...

What is the best way to instill moral and ethical values in your child? How do you teach your child right from wrong?

When teaching right from wrong, how much do you lead by example; how much do you teach through belief and principle; and how much do you let children learn or discover on their own?

When your child is in the midst of a moral or ethical dilemma, when do you intervene and how?

If you found yourself in a similar situation to the parents in God of Carnage, how would you address your own child’s wrongdoing? Would you discuss the issue with your child directly?

How would you engage with the parents of the other child? Would you discuss the situation with them at all or let the kids sort it out themselves?

Which character in the play do you find the most sympathetic?