However, I can start with the very basic moral principle for teaching the pre-schooler and all children consequences. For an understanding both of mercy and justice, this step provides a natural basis for growth.
If a child spills juice, let him help you wipe it up, even at age two. If she breaks a glass, have her help sweep up the pieces, being careful, of course. Every small thing which has a consequence teaches the process of cause and effect, which in turn informs the moral consciousness. Morality involves both justice and mercy, and that is learned first, naturally and then supernaturally. If you are a regular reader, you will remember the posts on St. Bernard and also the Benedictines, when I wrote of super-naturalizing the natural and naturalizing the supernatural. This is what Bernard spoke about to his monks, and what we understand through the Rule, and also through Aquinas. Interestingly enough, although I did not realize it until I read yesterday the translation of the book on the child and the Church, Dr. Montessori uses similar language. The entire environment can be supernaturalized.
But, back to consequences. Without a natural understanding of consequences, such as some baby birds die, some kittens are larger than others, some plants need light and some shade, the child does not have a natural link with everyday life which then moves quickly into the supernatural life of the growth of the soul.
Those of us who lost siblings early saw this in illness, death, funerals, burials, and children should attend such. Death is a natural consequence of Original Sin and the child who has fresh antennae for spiritual realities can be taught much at these times of sorrow.
Too many modern parents are faulty in these areas of child-rearing:
One, parents want to spare the child all pain; this is a false construct. Too many parents shield their children from unpleasant natural consequences which come up in the family. The human psyche needs this grounding.
Two, they do everything for the child. I was astounded a few years ago by a mother who complained at how tired she was doing housework. She has several children and none of them did any chores. Doing chores creates not only a good and necessary work ethic, but teaches consequences. My mother had chore charts on the wall to remind us of our daily duties. I did this with my son when he was little. Gold stars for perfect completion of chores, silver for second best, blue for third, red for fourth and so on, were placed for all to see. My mom was doing this in the 1950s. (One of my brothers was woeful at chores, so I would cheat now and then and add stars, as later, at about age nine, we could put our own on after Mom examined the done chore. I was smart enough not to give him gold or silver, as she would have noticed that. But, I am sure she had a laugh at the string of blue stars under his name and list. Happy days.)
If a child cleans the bedroom, she can sleep better and have order in her life, and so on.
Three, parents miss small opportunities in which to teach consequences through their own failures to follow-though. I am sure all parents reading this post understand this problem. It takes time and purpose to follow-through on events and omissions. One example in another house was a mom who complained to me about her teen son's library fines, which were exorbitant, such as $30 USD. Yet, she did not help him keep track of his books, CDs. DVDs, nor did she teach him that if he was late in returning these, he had to pay the fines. This is a natural consequence which builds into a spiritual consequence of good stewardship. One learns justice, which is the natural and supernatural process leading to punishment or reward through such everyday happenings.
Justice demands order, and the child cannot interiorize what are not first external rules and order.
Which leads to point four. If one expects a child to internally have a moral sense of right and wrong, there must be discipline, and consistency in discipline externally. One cannot let something go which was not allowed before and so on. Children thrive in a consistent, ordered environment.
Examples will follow according to the virtues emphasized.
For each virtue, there are corresponding processes for formation of that virtue. I shall share some of these in posts this next week.
To be continued...