Teaching Moral Intelligence


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Sabina Rizwan Khan

Sabina Rizwan Khan is a freelance writer and certified Youth Trainer.

Latest posts by Sabina Rizwan Khan (see all)

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Consider a child performing outstandingly in his studies, being a fine sportsperson, having an avid interest in the latest technology and excelling in co-curricular activities. But when it comes to his personal conduct, he lacks self-control, shows signs of aggression, can be disrespectful to his elders and younger ones and bears a low level of self-consciousness.

This is one concern which almost every parent has nowadays. Parents often experience that their child performs well academically, but, unfortunately, loses the battle on morality grounds.

Have you ever thought about the cause of this problem as a parent or educationist? What areas do we need to improve to teach our children to become better human beings?

The child in the introduction obviously shows signs of higher intelligence. Students who perform well most of the time are considered to have a high IQ. But at times, they have a low moral IQ, which is now considered to be a pivotal attribute in personality development.

Moral intelligence is a mental capacity to determine how to apply universal moral principles such as integrity, responsibility, compassion and forgiveness (www.moralcompass.com). It is also an ability to distinguish between right and wrong.

Dr. Michele Borba, a former teacher and an internationally renowned consultant and educator, in her book titled “Moral Intelligence: The seven essential virtues that teach kids to do the right thing” firmly advocates seven vital virtues: empathy, conscience, self-control, respect, kindness, tolerance and fairness. Dr. Borba believes that ethics is a prerequisite for positive and productive personality development. Parents should teach their children these qualities, so that they become better people.

Moral intelligence should be taught during childhood, with parents and teachers playing a vital role in developing an understanding of the importance of morals. It takes a considerable amount of patience to inculcate such virtues in young minds. Following are simple but helpful guidelines for embedding moral intelligence in their children.

Know Your Child

This is the most basic requirement. Before going on to introduce new things, you should know who you are dealing with. Children are different and equally special in their own ways. Try to understand your child. What does your child like? What are his interests? What makes him angry, upset or happy? What are his strengths and weaknesses? Understanding your child will guide you towards helping him in a better way!

Develop a Chat with Your Child

Once you understand your kid, you will eventually realise that he is in need of a conversation. Communication is extremely important for both parties. It is fruitful for parents to conquer grounds through thoughtful discussions. However, this should be a conversation and not a lengthy lecture. Let them express their point of view, which is important in building their character. Always speak in a friendly, mild tone, with gestures assuring that you value, understand and love them. Never abuse or use derogatory or negative language.

Dealing with Mistakes

Even though children have an inclination towards virtue, as per their Fitrah, they still tend to make mistakes. Never instantly talk to a child, when he does something wrong – at that time, he is emotionally shattered and embarrassed, and you, as a parent, are angry and disappointed. Both will behave irrationally. Give him time to analyse what he did, let him understand and learn from his mistakes. He will learn to love, sympathise, apologise, respect and care gradually.

Practicing Virtues Yourself

In order to make your child learn, it is vital that you set an example first. Parents have a habit of telling their young ones to do the right thing, without doing the same themselves. By doing so, they lose their credibility. Practice what you preach! Remember that a parent is a child’s role model. You are his/her teacher, so set the best example for him/her to follow.

Significance of Family

Family holds great importance for a child. This unit works as a major learning institution for young ones, upholding greater values, virtues and morality. Make sure that your family stays together. Good and bad phases are a part of life. Through times of trial, when family members are there for each other, children learn the value of love, sacrifice and respect.

By being in a family, one learns to live with different kinds of people. This helps a child in accepting different ideas, trains him to respect others and develops adjusting approaches in his personality.

As mature and responsible members of this society, we must ensure that our morals remain intact. If we want our future generation to be the torch-bearers of our traditions and flourish as one nation, we have to teach them morals. In that way, our children will be well-behaved. Remember, if rational intelligence can help a child build his life, moral intelligence will help him live that life in a better way!

Moral Education for the Young

An average child is exposed to 9000 obscene scenes per year through the mass media and television. This places a heavy responsibility on the shoulders of parents, who should give to their children proper Islamic education – even when it comes to sex education. Parents should realize that sex is not always a taboo to discuss. One can find various examples in the life of the Prophet (saw), where this subject was discussed extensively with the companions. Our failure to tell children what they need to know is one reason why they face complicated situations when they grow up.

Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “…Say: ‘Are those who know equal to those who know not?’…” (Az-Zumar 39:9)

A few tips for parents, who want to instill the moral aspects of life in their children:

  • Start from a very early age to instill in them the notion that the family system and the way of life of a Muslim is very different from others.
  • It is all right to be different and to not engage in what others are doing.
  • Explain that having a feeling in the heart is all right. But to express the same through action is entirely different and should be controlled.
  • Children should be told that just as they cannot drink alcohol and have pork, they cannot engage in immoral relationships.
  • Parents should control the music their children are listening to, TV programmes they are watching, magazines they are reading and clothes they are wearing.
  • Children should be told that what leads to Haram is also Haram in Islam. Adultery is a major sin, so anything that leads to it is also not allowed, e.g., dating, chatting, having flirtatious conversations, etc.
  • Children should be encouraged to spend their free time in extracurricular activities of their interest, so that their energies are involved in doing something constructive.
  • Muslim boys and girls should understand that not all arranged marriages are bad and that sometimes they are more successful than love marriages.
  • Every family member has a responsibility – parents towards their children; elder siblings towards younger siblings and so on.

– By Umm Saad

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