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Teaching Morality to Kids and Youth

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1 Teaching Morality to Kids and Youth
A look at the Ten Commandments

2 Opening Prayer

3 Introduction This presentation will be broken up into three sections
First, we will explore the development of Moral Psychology. This will help us to understand what elements of Morality should be emphasized for the different age groups. Second, we will explore Moral Theology and “The Good” analyzing the “Ends” and the “Means” Finally, we will take a journey through the Ten Commandments with more practical approaches to teaching each Commandment to each age group.

4 Moral Psychology Though there are many modern Moral Psychologists there are two men who laid the general framework for the study of Moral Psychology The first of these is Jean Piaget The second is Lawrence Kohlberg Piaget based his Moral work on the observation of kids playing Marbles at different ages. Kohlberg based his Moral work on the responses of kids answering moral dilemmas at different ages.

5 Piaget – The Awareness of Rules
Children up to 5 years old are in Stage 1 In this stage kids know that some things are allowed while other things forbidden. They are primarily interested in doing whatever they want regardless of how that fits with playmates. Think about playing Candy Land with a child, they keep their character on the path as it is “forbidden” to take it off the path. However, regardless of what color card they flip over, they pretty much dash forward at whatever pace they want without much care. It is usually adults and older children that bind them to any sort of order.

6 Piaget – The Awareness of Rules
Children ages 6-9 tend to fall into stage 2 Students in this age group have an exaggerated respect for the sanctity of rules. Students recognize that rules come from authority and only the authority can change them. When you watch students in this age play dodgeball they are keenly interested in the rules and making sure they are followed. Rules are not challenged at this age, but they are supremely interested in clarifying them.

7 Piaget – The Awareness of Rules
Stage 3 falls in age group 10-12 The dictates of adults and older children are left behind. The rules become the tool of the player. Players may suggest rules at any time, and if they are excepted by the other players, the game is adjusted. 6-9 year olds when faced with a situation that doesn’t have a rule, they will run to a teacher to get clarification. This age group will sort out suggestions, agree, and amend the game or situation appropriately. Adolescents understand that the game and rules were invented and modified over a long period of time and that they can continue to modify

8 Kohlberg – Levels of Moral Reasoning
There are 6 stages in this system and only a small percentage ever reach level 5 or 6 This view of Moral Psychology is my personal favorite and I think it ties in not only to the stages of individual moral development, but the moral development of all mankind since the beginning of time. The connections to the development in scriptures is amazing to me, someday I’ll write a doctoral thesis on it.

9 Kohlberg – Levels of Moral Reasoning
Most children and delinquents are at stages 1 & 2. Most adults are at stages 3 & 4 20% of American adults are at stages 5 & 6 5-10% percent reach stage 6 Since very few adolescents reached stage 6 Kohlberg grouped stage 5 & 6 together.

10 Kohlberg – Levels of Moral Reasoning
Stage 1: Obedience – Pleasure/Pain orientation. If I am good, I get a treat, if I am bad I get time-out. Think Adam and Eve – If you do bad, you will die and/or Suffer. If you do good you live in paradise. Blame serpent to avoid punishment. Stage 2: Instrumental – This involves trade-offs and deal making. “It is better that I don’t tell on my brother, I do bad things too sometimes and I don’t want him squealing on me.” Think Cain and Able – “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Or Abraham “If there is but 10 righteous people…”

11 Kohlberg – Levels of Moral Reasoning
Stage 3: Good boy morality: Child is eager for approval of others and wants to maintain good relations “Its better to tell because otherwise they might think I was involved.” or “If I am good, God will like me.” At this stage people are fully interested in what the rules are and upholding and defending them. Think about Moses, the Ten Commandments and the entire law code given to him by God. Stage 4: Authority and Social Order: Child now seek approval of society in general, but has rigid ideas to what rules are; Child has a law and order mentality. “I have to tell, what they are doing just isn’t right.” We see this stage in Scriptures with the Prophets who call for conversion and repentance. They call for uniform following of the Law.

12 Kohlberg – Levels of Moral Reasoning
Stage 5: Social Contract: Person makes contracts and tries hard to keep them; attempts to keep from violating the will or rights of others; believes in the common good. “I’ll try to persuade Jimmy to give back the stolen money but if he won’t I’ll tell.” This stage may also be reflected in the Prophets as they make contracts of repentance between God and the faithful.

13 Kohlberg – Levels of Moral Reasoning
Stage 6: Universal Principles: Person shows obedience to social rules, except where they can be shown to contradict universal justice. Objections of Conscience fall under this category. “I know that Jimmy is wrong for stealing, I am going to help him understand that stealing hurts others, and that he should make it right.” This stage can easily be seen in all of the teachings of Jesus Christ, St. Paul’s writing, and in the lives of the Martyrs. Even though the law says to worship Pagan Gods we will accept the penalty for the highest Good, which is faith in Jesus Christ.

14 Summary of Moral Psychology
Be conscious of the age group that you are teaching and understand what stages they are at. We should always reinforce the values of the next stage but we shouldn’t expect understanding. For example, students who hear the story of Jesus overturning the tables in the temple and driving people out with a whip is a tricky situation for many. The youngest kids will say “those people that Jesus drove out must have been really bad because he is punishing them.” Upper elementary students will say “Isn’t Jesus committing a sin? It is not right to ruin people’s stuff or to use a whip against them.” Adolescents and adults will say, “Jesus is protecting the sanctity of the temple. It is like a soldier who kills the enemy, killing is wrong unless there is just cause like war or self-defense. To offend Almighty God is the worst possible offense with eternal ramifications and therefore he is just in cause.

15 Moral Theology Now that we have a basic understanding of Moral Psychology, let’s take a look at Moral Theology. In this assessment of Moral Theology we will see how it is coupled with Moral Psychology at its different stages. We as humans are tempted to leave moral theology at the stage of a 6-9 year old who would like to simply write down every scenario as right or wrong. This was pursued to unbelievable sophisticated levels where volume upon volume of discernment was made on each moral question. This movement was called the casuist movement. They would attempt to determine the exact amount of money that would need to be stolen in order for it to be a mortal sin vs. a venial sin. Modern Moral Theology focuses on “The Good,” that is, what is the highest good for God, my neighbor, and myself.

16 Moral Theology If I had to some up moral theology in one phrase, it would be, “Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.” The fulfillment of this command of Christ is only found in living saints and is promised to us in the inheritance of heaven. This perfection is impossible to attain without grace and it requires continual conversion throughout one’s life. However, it provides us with the ultimate principle by which we should guide all actions. It is important to remember that perfection does not mean popularity or that people will like you. People hated Christ for his perfection and Jesus instructs us that the world that loves darkness hates the light and those who walk in it.

17 Moral Theology In the writings of St. Paul we see the most pronounced movement from the idea of letter of the law to the spirit of the law. In the new covenant the law “Is written on their hearts.” St. Paul talks about living in the Spirit and freedom from the restraints of the law, because when love is the over-riding Universal Principle, then all things we do will be holy. St. Paul also states that it is the law that helps us to discover what true love is.

18 Moral Theology In order for us to choose the perfect or most loving option when faced with any situation, we must understand that there is a hierarchy of Goods with God being the ultimate Good. For example, “Billy discovers that mom has left a tray of hot cookies on the counter unguarded with a little sign that reads ‘don’t touch.’” If Billy sees the note and knows that he loves his mom very much and doesn’t want to ruin the trust in that relationship, then that is the highest Good. Billy sees the note and knows that obeying his parents is good and that he will get in trouble if he doesn’t. This also is Good. Billy sees the note and but remembers how Good fresh hot cookies are, and he knows that mom won’t notice if one is missing. Eating a warm chewy cookie is Good. The child who denies himself the pleasure of the warm cookie out of desire to remain a good boy and to love his mother has made a perfect moral choice.

19 Moral Theology The example of the cookie points us to a certain reality, we always choose things for some projected good. Sin is the gap between the Highest Good and the Actual Good selected. Sin is the missing love that harms our relationships or the harms our own appreciation of the Good. If the boy violates the order on the note, he has hurt the trust in his relationship with his mom. When someone hurts their enemy, they think that this is good. However the greatest good is reconciliation. When someone has pre-marital sex they see the goodness of the sexual act, but the greatest good is marital love.

20 To explain the hierarchy of goods let’s look at human sexuality
The Highest Good To explain the hierarchy of goods let’s look at human sexuality *Note that these are not all Good actions, the perceived good the person is seeking is what is meant by good. Conjugal Love in Marriage Free, Total, Fruitful, and Faithful Highest Good Gap = Sin Fornication: Pre-Marital Sex May be Free, Fruitful, and Faithful but not Total Greater degree of sin Contraception in Marriage: Not total or fruitful though free and faithful Masturbation Not fruitful, faithful, or total Adultery Not Faithful or Total – Violation of the Sacrament Homosexual Acts Against natural Law Greatest Degree of sin Rape/Abuse Not Free, total, fruitful, or faithful Lowest Good

21 Practically Speaking The reason I used sex as an example is because there are so many “Apparent Goods” sub divided underneath it. You may wonder why rape is listed as “lowest Good” when it is clearly evil. Even the rapist thinks they are gaining good things, like power and pleasure. It is only apparent, not actual good. Most of the issues we will discuss with the youth in the classroom will involve a much smaller hierarchy. Notice how kids & parents alike when asked if they attend Mass (As commanded by the third commandment), they will give a “good excuse.” Sunday is “Family Day,” or “Johnny has soccer,” etc. All of these things are good, in themselves, but the highest good is going to Mass. Any purposeful denial of the highest good for a lower good is sinful.

22 Armed with the Knowledge
Once we understand the hierarchy of Goods and Moral Psychology, we can begin to become better educators of morality. When teaching K-2 (age 5-7) kids say “don’t steal because you’ll get punished.” We should reaffirm that, “Yes, because it makes people sad when we take things that don’t belong to us.” When teaching third and fourth graders about stealing (age 7 or 8) we should reaffirm the rule or law. “God says, ‘thou shall not steal’ stealing is bad. What should we do if we want something that doesn’t belong to us?” By doing this we will be training our children to look for ways of properly attaining good things. We might also ask, “What if there is no way for us to get that without stealing?” This will promote the idea of sacrifice, patience, and love for others as the Highest Good. Yet the highest good when being tempted to steal is Hope in the Lord. Another follow up, “How would you feel if someone took your favorite object?” This would help the young students understand the nature of injury that theft incurs.

23 Armed with the Knowledge
With older kids 7-10th Grade, we may see some contractual or conditional proposals. What if you had to steal food to feed your child so that they don’t die? It is important for us to appeal to the law first. “God commands us not to steal, he gave us no exceptions to the rule.” Then we should promote the higher goods by asking, “What is a better approach to feeding your family?” Answers may include: Soup kitchens, begging, friends, charity, borrowing, etc. Inevitably the older kids push to the limits, where we can point to the saint. “Saint Dominic Savio and Saint Therese of Lesieux both proclaimed they would rather die then sin.” We must ultimately rely on God to get us what we need. He fed the Israelites in the dessert and saved the poor widow from the famine. We must trust he will provide for us even when all hope seems lost. The Highest God is hope in the Lord.

24 Pulling it all Together
At this point we should have a simple understanding of the moral development and stages of our children. We should also understand the hierarchy of goods and to understand that in order to be “Perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” we must always pick the highest good. With these two basic understandings we can approach the proper way to teach the Ten Commandments to any age group.

25 The Ten Commandments Worship no other Gods
Do not use the Lord’s Name in Vain Keep Holy the Sabbath Honor your mother and father Do not murder Do not commit adultery Do not steal Do not bear false witness Do not covet your neighbor’s wife Do not covet your neighbor’s goods

26 Commandment #1 Do not worship other Gods
Highest Good – Worship of the Holy Trinity through the teachings and guidance of the Holy Catholic Church Implications: We should know, love, and serve God to be happy with God in this life and the next life. General Offenses: Practicing other religions, sacrilege, disrespecting holy things in word or deed, promoting false doctrine. Offenses for Older Students: Using Ouija Boards, Psychics, Fortune Tellers, or relying upon horoscopes.

27 Commandment #2 Do not use God’s name in vain
Highest Good – Honor God in your mind, on your lips, and in your heart. Implications: The profession of our faith is made without blemish in Baptism & Confirmation General Offenses: Using the Lord’s name irreverently, swearing, deliberately saying bad things about God, Scripture, the Church, Mary, or the saints.

28 Commandment #3 Keep Holy the Sabbath
Highest Good – Giving complete worship to God by setting aside the Lord’s day for rest and devotion. Implications: The Lord has given us all good things, by giving Him the first day of our week, we honor His gifts and give Him proper thanks and praise General Offenses: Missing Mass on purpose, not paying attention to liturgy, not resting from labor

29 Commandment #4 Honor your mother and father
Highest Good – Is to worship our Father in Heaven and to honor Our Blessed Mother. By obeying proper authorities we perform the will of God Implications: The world fell into sin through disobedience, it is through the obedience of Christ and Mary that salvation came into the world. General Offenses: Disobeying parents, deliberately harming parents by word or deed, not completing responsibilities/duties/chores, not treating siblings properly, not listening to proper authority

30 Commandment #5 Do not Murder
Highest Good – To respect the dignity of life from conception to natural death Implications: To recognize the gift of life given to each of us by God. To injure or end this life works against God’s desire to see them live. General Offenses: Murder, intentionally harming others, abusing drugs or alcohol, causing others to sin, picking on or teasing others harshly, put yourself in danger. Offenses for older students: Intentionally harming yourself, contemplation of suicide, spreading rumors or gossip.

31 Commandment #6 Do not commit adultery
Highest Good – When a husband and wife get married and share their lives freely, totally, and faithfully with each other and desire to have a family together Implications: A family is an image of the living God. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are a family like a Mother, Father, and child. Offenses: When a husband or wife does not remain faithful to the other (Keep it simple) Offenses for Older Students: Any sexual activity with people of either sex, pornography, masturbation, fornication, immodest dress, impure conversation, dirty jokes, or looking at others in lust.

32 Commandment #7 Do not steal
Highest Good – The theological virtue of hope helps us rely on providence and not on our immediate desires. Though we may be lacking a good thing here and now, we will gain everything in heaven. Implications: By being indifferent to wealth or poverty, it allows us to be fully devoted to God without interference of material goods. General Offenses: stealing, accepting stolen goods, vandalism or destruction, intentionally hiding the property of others, cheating Offenses for older students: not repaying debt, gambling.

33 Commandment #8 Do not bear false witness
Highest Good – Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” By always speaking the truth we unite ourselves more closely to God. Implications: We not only speak the truth when we are tempted to lie, but we are also called to proactively share the truth of the gospel with those we know and love. General Offenses: Lying, swearing falsely, cheated on tests, copied another’s work, revealed secrets without good reason. Offenses for Older Students: Spread false rumors, to hold back the truth about God or faith.

34 Commandment #9 Do not covet your neighbor’s wife
Highest Good – To pray for and love your future husband or wife if God calls you to marriage. Implications: We should always pray for our vocation, most of all for a holy life, that we will be open to God’s call for us General Offenses: Wanting a friend to break a promise for you Offenses for Older Students: Purposefully entertaining sexual thoughts, not guarding senses and imagination from impure thoughts, watching shows, plays, pictures, movies, etc. for the purpose of sexual arousal.

35 Commandment #10 Do not covet your neighbor’s goods
Highest Good – To thank God and be happy with all the things that God has already given to you. Implications: By being indifferent to wealth or poverty, it allows us to be fully devoted to God without interference of material goods. Offenses: Being greedy, being jealous of others for their possessions or talents, wishing for people to get hurt or sick

36 Reconciliation It is irresponsible to teach Catholic Morality without promoting the sacrament of reconciliation. We should remind students that all of us, even the Pope, is a sinner and that we are all in need of God’s forgiveness. God’s forgiveness, love, and tender compassion is never affected, reduced, or diminished by any sin we can commit Encourage them all to work towards holiness but not to be discouraged when we make mistakes along the way.

37 Conclusion As you work with any age group, it is always right to focus on the Highest Good For very young kids, we can ratify their fear of consequences with the reason we don’t allow that action. For elementary level kids, we remind them that the rules were given to us by divine authority for the highest love and a good and orderly society For adolescents we should always reinforce the laws but explore the deeper elements of justice For all age groups we should help them understand the offenses and sub-offenses of each commandment so as to help rightfully form their conscience. Finally, we should always remind our students, as regularly as we teach morality that God’s forgiveness, love, and tender compassion is never affected, reduced, or diminished by any sin we can commit. We should always enthusiastically promote reconciliation.

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