Life Is Very Easy Through The Eyes Of A Preschool Child – The Understanding Of Rights And Wrongs

A familiar thing every adult in a child’s life does as s/he grows is to explain to the child what is socially acceptable behaviour. Evidence has been presented on the understanding of fairness in children as young as nineteen months old. This makes us understand that evolution has designed children to be born with an inbuilt moral compass, which facilitates the shaping of their social moralities during environmental adaptation.
A key feature of environmental adaptation in a child is the ability to observe their social environment and vicariously adopt social cues into their behavioural patterns. As the child grows and learns to coordinate with others through play, the child learns to take responsibility for accurately distinguishing between various behavioural etiquettes and emotional expressions that they have observed.
The preschool offers a safe space for the child to learn rights and wrongs through trial and error. It is also in preschool play groups that the distinction is further emphasised, as these situations involve people from varied social backgrounds. It is here that children understand that what may be acceptable, appreciated or appropriate within their family, need not be the social etiquette elsewhere.
The whole process of teaching this distinction of right from wrong in preschools is designed based on the simple operant conditioning effect of reinforcement. Reinforcement is very much simplified in the eyes of the child. It is the child’s understanding that every appreciation that the s/he receives for what s/he has done is a reward for acceptable behaviour and every instance of non-appreciation or punishment is indicative of wrongdoing.
It is through consistent reinforcement that the child learns good social etiquette such as accepting as well as apologising for mistakes, forgiving, giving and/or receiving appreciation, making requests or following rules, and several others. As a child learns to be empathetic, s/he understands the importance of the concepts taught in school – such as success, failure, equality, altruism, conscience, trust, loyalty and honesty. A deeper understanding of these concepts teaches the child to navigate, express and regulate their thoughts, feelings, behaviours, relationships and motivation more appropriately. It also allows children to draw boundaries and distinguish between social and personal values of right and wrong, further making them better at decision and judgement-making. This in turn makes them exceptional financial managers, negotiators and transformational leaders.

– Madhumitha Nivi

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