Ethics explained to children 5 rules on the art of doing the right thing

Doing (almost always) the 'right thing' is certainly not easy. Never. And it is even less so for a middle school or high school kid. In this age group, an incorrect action often seems 'normal' for those who perform it on the basis that 'everyone does it'. 'Why did you copy the math test?'; Do you think it is appropriate to listen to music with headphones in class? But why did you come home so late without notifying us? '...

When asked for an explanation on similar facts, every parent, at least once, saw their child shrug their shoulders and reply with the usual excuse (everyone does it, in fact, or even 'I was fine with it').

Faced with such situations, the general recommendation of the adult 'don't do that, you know!', Does not (so often) produce great results.

What could be useful instead is to help the child better understand 'the art of doing the right thing'. Bruce Weinstein, author of the book "What if Nobody Catches Me?" (The Beaver) offers a mini guide, full of practical examples, to reflect on the idea of ​​'right' and 'wrong'.

1. Don't hurt anyone

The damage that can be caused is not only physical, but also emotional: it is important not to do and say things that can hurt others. Of course it's not that simple. Sometimes, one can only limit the suffering of others.

For example, when you want to leave your girlfriend, it's much better to just say what you need, without listing in detail what you can't stand anymore.


2. Leave the world a little better than you found it

This means bringing out the best in yourself. The point is not only not to hurt anyone but to live to the fullest of one's potential as a human being.

Helping a partner with homework, remembering mom's or dad's birthday, for example, or listening to a friend who has problems adds something to the lives of others and those who do.


3. Respect others

Respect is a concept that the author simplifies by stating that “it means treating people as they wish to be treated”. And it's not a matter of personal preference because everyone wants the same things in the end.

For example, it is necessary to maintain confidentiality on the facts of others: if one hurts a check, one expects the professor not to shout it with the megaphone!

With clear cases, inspired by the daily life of children of this age, the author also explains that it is necessary to always tell the truth (even when it is not beautiful) and to keep promises.

4 Be fair

“What would you think if you and your friend both answered a test correctly, but your friend got 10 and you got 6?

I bet you'd say: 'But that's not fair!' ...

Treating people unfairly is not a matter of rudeness: “it's not ethical.” With this first example, the ethics expert invites us to reflect on how important it is to behave according to this principle.

5. Be loving

It seems trivial but it is not at all: for the author it is the most difficult principle to apply every day but it is also the one that gives the most satisfaction. And to clarify the idea, he offers some ideas to young readers, including, for example:

  • Ask mom and dad if there is something to do, without expecting anything in return. When someone helps you even a little, look them in the eye and say 'thank you'

  • Make friends with a new classmate

  • Email someone who is special to you, just to tell them you're thinking about it.

Once the 5 fundamental principles have been explained, Weinstein dedicates the bulk of his book to describing 'typical situations' that every child can encounter (easily identifiable) in his daily life.

  • Should I tell my friend what people say about her?

  • Can you leave the guy with an email?

  • What's wrong with buying the assignment on the Internet?

The author analyzes the most common possible behaviors and calls the young reader to provide a solution, choosing between different scenarios and hypotheses (listed in a box, entitled 'according to you' which is repeated in each chapter).

This multiple question and answer approach can turn the book into a powerful ally to 'use' and share together as a family. Through ideas and simulations, perhaps, it will be easier for mom and dad to get the message across, for example, that even 'if no one catches you, copying is still wrong!'

Here you can download the material for schools


If you want to ask for advice, you can write to the adolescentologist on the forum

  • ethics for teenage boys
  • how to explain the right to a boy
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