BEHAVING YOURSELF:MORAL DEVELOPMENT INTHE SECULAR FAMILY

JEAN MERCER, PH.D.

A five-year-old boy swipes the coins his mother has left on her desk. As it happens, the mother knows exactly how much she has put there in preparation for a trip to the Laundromat. She confronts the little boy, who says he didn’t take the money—but there lies the exact amount of the missing money right on his pillow. The mother gives him a serious talking-to, then sends him to his room, telling him to come out only when he can say why he should not have taken the coins. After some minutes, he emerges in tears, but is able to state what was wrong with what he did: “Ya get in trouble!”

This vignette contains many elements common to the moral instruction of secular and ...

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