Section 3, Article 5 - Moral development occurs through many of the cognitive and behavioral tasks that children master in early childhood. Caregivers and adults are often concerned with the development of appropriate or good behavior in children, thus leading to the ongoing nature versus nurture debate. One theory emphasizing the impact of nature holds that moral development is genetically influenced and matures through attachment and cognitive development. In theories highlighting nurture, culture is viewed as the influential piece of children’s morality. Children’s moral development may be fostered through a variety of avenues, including discipline. Parents often attempt to reinforce the natural development of , as they guide their children towards . Likewise, parents may work to minimize , as it leads to . There are many types of aggression, such as the following: , , , and . These forms of aggression usually wane as the brain matures and empathy increases between the ages of 2 to 6. Caregivers and adults need to provide guidance for children throughout this process, and discipline is one such means of guidance.
One type of discipline is corporal punishment, and this involves causing harm to the body such as in spanking or slapping. Because of how easily it can become distinctly abusive, corporal punishment should never be done in anger. Studies on corporal punishment have found numerous negative effects upon long-term development, and they have also found that this technique is less effective than others in modifying unwanted behavior. However, it is also important to sift human wisdom through the filter of Scripture. Consider what is said in Proverbs 13:24, 22:15, 29:15,17, and Hebrews 12:5-6 as you decide where you stand on this form of discipline.
An alternative to corporal punishment is psychological control, which involves parents threatening to withdraw love and support from their children (). The disciplinary technique depends on children feeling guilt and gratitude towards their parents, and it has understandably been associated with negative long-term effects as well (; ; ). Many parents in the United States use time-outs to punish misbehavior, and this consists of separating a child from others for a set amount of time. Another alternative is induction, wherein parents help children to understand their emotions and together discuss better alternatives to the behavior that the children chose. Though developmentalists differ on which method of discipline is preferable, they have consistently found that the parents’ attitudes toward the chosen method of discipline is most influential in predicting its long-term effects (). When parents are in full accordance with the ideology of their disciplinary method, it is more successful is heightened and negative long-term effects are decreased ().
As with all areas of development, parents should consider what God’s Word and research suggests, and they should be fully convinced of the methods that they use to guide and discipline their children. Paul, the apostle, advocated for believers to have Biblically strong convictions that cause them to stand for truth (Romans 14:5b). As you continue your studies in human development, consider whether it: agrees with Scripture, honors God, and if it is the best view of the developmental idea at hand. Be sure that you are fully convinced of what you believe.