|Raising godless and moral kids is not rocket science,|
but it does take consistent effort.
Every once in a while I'll be asked by either an irate or curious theist how is it possible to teach my children morality without God. I consider this a fairly honest query, mostly because godlessness is such a foreign concept to many (especially here in the States). Ergo, here is a short list of ways I'm nurturing their sense of right and wrong.
Repeat the Golden Rule again and again and again and again -- repeat as necessary.
As it was recently pointed out in a Huffington Post article the Golden Rule had been discovered by many cultures at different times and is not owned by any cult or sect. I have stated the principle in age appropriate language for my children when the topic is relevant. Anyone who has been responsible for caring for young children knows that relevant moments can come up quite often.
We own a animals.
If you want to instill the virtues of being responsible as well as compassionate there can be few better ways of doing it than with having an animal in the home. We currently have a 14 year-old dog, Ruby, and the kids have responsibilities in her upkeep. Ali (currently7) is officially in charge with feeding her, while her brother is in charge of picking up the Ruby poop in the yard (a job which he does not particularly relish). We also owned a cat years ago who we had to put down due to a tumor growing out of her face. Will, who was quite young at the time, placed a picture of the two of them in the cat carrier just before she left the house for the last time. He didn't want her to feel alone.
We don't load the kids down with superstitious myths that actually impair them from becoming moral adults.
My son learned about the Great Flood not as a cutesy story about bunny rabbits magically hopping onto an ark, but as a barbaric tale of mass murder. When I talked to my son about the myth: 1) I didn't have to treat the story as "real"; 2) I didn't have to explain how genocide is OK under some circumstances.
It's common for parents to lament the problems of raising moral kids today. What many do not understand is that we are living in a Golden Age of super heroes. Just as the Western promulgated basic morality (at least many Westerns -- just look at High Noon or even the TV series The Rifleman) super heroes offer a way for kids to think about doing the right thing. I took my ten year-old son out of school to see a matinee showing of The Avengers, and hope it made an impression on him besides the action sequences.
Not being a dick -- and not being a wussy
I don't yell at the waitress when my order is messed up. When someone disagrees with me in a social setting I demonstrate restraint (though when intoxicated I show less restraint, but am far more amiable). I assist with their homework when school is in session. And there are moments that I say I'm sorry when I make a mistake. On the other hand, they have seen me say, "That
is not OK and it needs to stop now," not only to them but at times to other kids. There was an instance that Ali was at an after school event and we were in a classroom. She was doing a time sensitive activity and some older kids were interrupting her while their mom was looking on doing nothing. I told them to stop it in the same voice I tell my dog not to hump the sofa. Mission accomplished.