Instilling Good Morals--Part I
- David and Laurie Callihan Authors
- 2002 14 Feb
Yes, Johnny, there is a right and wrong.
Though the focus of our book The Guidance Manual for the Christian Homeschool: A Parent's Guide for Preparing Home School Students for College or Career is secondary education, we want to start with a proper foundation. Some parents will be starting their home-schooling instruction from their child's earliest days. Others decide to begin later. Whenever it commences, it is important to recognize that our children's education must be built around knowledge of God and our relationship to Him. Without this proper foundation, the instruction of morals is nigh to impossible. There is no good way to teach about morality without a reference point upon which right and wrong is based.
Our children do not start in neutral. They are fallen creatures, capable of sinning against a holy God. We must not forget that even though our children are created in God's image, they are tainted by self-will, personal rebellion, and a propensity toward sinfulness, which has been developing in each child from infancy.
We live in central New York, not very far from Rochester. There is a suburb of Rochester called Bushnell's Basin. Horace Bushnell was a 19th century educator who believed, erroneously, that our children are born morally neutral, with an equal chance of going the right way and the wrong way. He explains his viewpoint in the book, Parental Nurturing, which was compiled in 1876 from his notes after his death. His view is that the determining factor is the family environment, the Christian home. If we can get our children into a conducive learning environment, Bushnell thought, they will grow into productive, excellent adults. (However, let us not equally err in thinking that the environment doesn't matter, because it certainly does.)
Nevertheless, Bushnell had a flaw in his thinking that we must take care to avoid. Our children can be placed in optimal environments. They can be given all the right Christian instruction, with proper books, computers, teachers, libraries, laboratories, athletic facilities, and anything else to foster a proper upbringing. With all of this, a child is still capable of doing the wrong thing. Just look at everything the public schools give American kids from this list to validate that the environment and resources don't produce proper character in and of themselves. We have thrown more and more at the public schools over the past century and the resultant state of things isn't proportional to the expenditures. Home schoolers spend an average of $500 to $600 per student, and there's little doubt that the results are children of superior character, on average.
Our kids are not innocent victims of wrongdoing. They are growing morally every day of their lives. They make right or wrong choices all the time, with a strong propensity toward the negative side. Additionally, each choice we make as parents, friends, neighbors, or strangers exerts an influence for either good or evil as their little minds observe and analyze us. From their early days our children are making their own moral decisions. Adult sin and righteousness are catalysts in the moral character our children "inherit." So how do we guide them?
It is not a popular thing in our modern world to point out that there are absolutes, but there are. Hopefully a wake-up call was sounded on Sept. 11, 2001, that we need to rethink this issue carefully. There are Ten Commandments. There is an abundance of teaching on how to live a right and proper life in the Scriptures. There is right, and there is wrong. We know; sometimes it's hard for us to discern between them. However, if you teach your children using Jesus' exhortation of the fulfillment of the law (thou shalt love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself) you can't go wrong. The Ten Commandments are pertinent today; they are fulfilled and surpassed by loving God and others supremely in our daily life.
This is where we need to start. Make sure the Bible is central to our children's daily learning. Pray with your children. Encourage them in Christian practices like giving to the poor, ministering to the lost, and developing a sense of justice and mercy in their daily lives. Learn and display the love of Jesus Christ every day. It is the most important single subject you can teach your children, bar none!
In our next article we will expand on this idea further to discuss how our godly influence on our children, or our lack of it, will impact their entire lives. You can also find this concept expanded in the second chapter of our book entitled "Focusing On The Heart Of Your Child." You can learn more about this and other important topics and how to obtain our book on our Web site, www.davidandlaurie.com.
The Callihans are home schooling their five children. They are the authors of The Guidance Manual for the Christian Home School: A Parent's Guide to Preparing Home School Students for College or Career. To order a copy or see what else David and Laurie are up to, visit their Web site at davidandlaurie.com. You can chat with David and Laurie live every Saturday night in Crosswalk.com's HomeSchool Chat!