Building Moral Intelligence
Most experts agree on one critical finding: violence is learned. That means violent behaviors can be changed and replaced by peacefulness and self-control. The first step to raising peaceful kids is dispelling erroneous myths so they do turn out peaceful.
MYTH 1: Peacefulness develops naturally.
Kids aren’t born knowing the skills of problem solving, conflict resolution, self-control, The skills of peacefulness (or Moral Intelligence) are learned! To ensure kids acquire them parents must intentionally model, reinforce, and teach them. Three teachable virtues make violence unthinkable: empathy, conscience and self-control. All three are essential for peacefulness and nonviolent behavior.
MYTH 2: “It’s all in the genes.”
Latest research finds that only a small portion of violent individuals are mentally ill. It also does not depend on genes, social class, or race. Violent behavior is learned. What is clear: biology is not destiny.
MYTH 3: Violent behavior doesn’t form until adulthood.
Wrong! Research by the Surgeon General finds that two points individuals are most likely to develop violent beliefs are in early childhood (age 7 or 8) and late adolescence (17 or 18) and stay entrenched.
MYTH 4: Aggressive behavior is a “phase” that kids outgrow.
Wrong again! Scores of studies report that aggressive behavior is learned and once learned can become quite entrenched and tough to change. In fact, “research consistently shows that the frequently aggressive child or adolescent is very likely to grow up to be a highly aggressively adult, more likely not only to commit violent crimes but also drunk driving, severe punishing of offspring and spouse abuse. Once long-term study showed a significant relationship between the level of violence at eight years of age and antisocial acts twenty-two years later.” Arnold Goldstein
MYTH 5: High IQ = High Moral IQ.
IQ does not guarantee peacefulness. Just think of intelligent individuals such as-Hitler, Stalin, Lenin- We’ve always known that the true measure of character rests in actions-not in mere thoughts. Unless kids know how to act right, their moral development and behavior is defective.
MYTH 6: Aggressiveness is just a “boy” problem.
Contrary to popular opinion, girls are not less aggressive than boys but they just express aggression in more covert ways (shunning, manipulation, passive aggression, gossip) different from the physical acts common for aggressive boys.
MYTH 7: Violent behavior can’t be changed.
The biggest mistake! Richard Rhodes, author of Why They Kill, described Lonnie Athens’ analysis of violent criminals. None were born violent: they learned the behavior in four stages. Most important: violence is reversible until step four—the most violent stage
Michele Borba is the author of Building Moral Intelligence: The Seven Essential Virtues that Teach Kids to Do the Right Thing and No More Misbehavin’ (Jossey Bass). Refer to www.moralintelligence.com for more practical parenting tips and teacher resources to keep violence out of our children’s lives.
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