The family culture and children’s moral development

Publish: 9:41 PM, October 18, 2021 | Update: 9:41:PM, October 18, 2021

Dr P R Datta
The title of this article implies that children’s family culture has a significant impact on their moral development. As a result, it draws our attention to two related, but distinct questions: How can family culture influence moral development? And what role culture plays in developing moral growth? The main thrust of this article is to understand the ways our current cultural norms influence children’s moral development. To cultivate and nurture a positive culture, what should families and schools do?

I recently had a pleasant and happy experience when I spent time with a child who came to our home with his mother. He was only four years old, but he was a very bright, polite, stable, and attractive young boy. Always cheerful and with a lovely smile on an even happier face. There were no complaints, stress, or demands, which is unusual in today’s era of social disorganisation and social disequilibrium. Many things have made our surroundings more complicated and crowded, including intelligent technological devices, social media presence, online games, outside noise, pollution, increased social gathering, frequent mobile communications, and much more. These make our lives easier, but they also have serious consequences if they are not dealt with properly. Even a very young child nowadays wakes up with a mobile phone and only eats food if they can watch something on their phones. These devices are especially dangerous for children. Parents are also relieved to see this because it allows them to concentrate on their own tasks. Many parents nowadays do not have enough time to spend with their children and spend quality time with them. We are all living in a digital age where self-focus is the name of the game.

Intelligent devices make up the majority of how young children live. But this boy is different, one-of-a-kind, enjoys music, eats dishes ranging from continental European to Indian, anything from corolla to fish, and knows the names of many Indian dishes but is intolerant of fast foods. I didn’t see him use any devices, but I did see him get out of bed by singing Rabindra songs. I found him always happy to share his singing talent with others who were interested in going to bed by singing songs. His attitudes, values, behaviour, and perception are all very positive and respectful. When I look at our current family values and relationships with our children, I am sometimes perplexed. A good, nurtured family culture is essential for the moral development of children.

It is a very complex, challenging and bewildering task to teach life values to our children. In our attempt to foster our children’s characters and minds without stifling them, we should not overlook teaching basic life principles and morality, such as becoming polite, respectful, obedient, calm, honest, responsible, and accountable. But many of us always overlook these. As a parent, we live in a much more complicated and modern world in which we are busy doing many things leaving us with little to no time for our children. As a result, our babies and youngsters begin using smart devices at a young age. It develops into a long-term problem.

However, we are unaware that the consequences can be dangerous and harmful. When they do not get what they want, children often become irritated, upset, and even angry. When a young child exhibits a variety of negative behaviours, such as noncompliance, aggression, extreme rudeness, disrespect, abusive language, and behavioural problems at school, there are numerous reports. All of this becomes ingrained in our culture. A negative surrounding culture will obstruct children’s moral development. As a result, as parents, we have a responsibility to teach our children the right and wrong ways to live and to instil moral values in them. We can all agree that culture, whether it is family culture, school culture, or societal culture, has a direct impact on children’s moral development. For this discussion, I would use the term culture in a broader sense to denote the totality of the surrounding environment in which a child is born, grows, and lives, and the context of my discussion is, of course, our nation Bangladesh. Instead, in order to provide a more complete picture of the discussion, I’d like to provide a brief history of our people. Understanding how our national culture forms, shapes, develops, matures, and evolves into what we have today.

The area that now comprises Bangladesh was primarily an agrarian society during the British Raj, producing a range of high-quality rice and jute products. With West Bengal being predominantly Hindu and East Bengal being predominantly Muslim, there was already potential points of tension. Bengal, having come into the possession of the British through the activities of the East India Company, was deemed a wealthy region, yet one that showed signs of volatility. Post-1857, the British colonial authorities endeavoured to rationalise various provinces. As late as 1905, an attempt was made by George Nathaniel Curzon, the Viceroy of India, to split Bengal for geopolitical reasons. Kolkata (previously known as Calcutta) was designated the capital of West Bengal, and Dhaka was East Bengal. Various groups were unhappy with Curzon’s decision, and in 1912, the partition was annulled. Even the seeming omnipotence of the British Raj could not mask latent ethnic tensions that were never far below the surface.

As the early years of the Twentieth Century progressed, there was increased agitation for Indian self-rule. During the Second World War, the British finally acknowledged that independence was not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’. Thus, the knotty problem of post-independent configuration exercised both the British and those jockeying for land and power. With the departure date set for the summer of 1947, it soon became apparent that ethnic conflict was inevitable. With partition, East Bengal, predominantly Muslim, decided to become one-half of Pakistan as East Pakistan. The remainder in the west was known as West Pakistan. Both India and Pakistan were to find themselves with sizeable minority populations, which was a source of concern and tension across the Indian sub-continent. The story until 1971 is known to all of us.

Our traditions, habits, beliefs largely influence our national culture, family ethos and institutional values down the centuries. The British colonial system dramatically affects the education system.

Bangladesh is primarily a conservative and traditional, economically destitute society. According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, nearly 90% of the people are Muslims, with an estimated 8% Hindus and 1% Buddhists and other minorities. Therefore, Bangladesh culture is made up of diverse ideas, religions, beliefs, values, taboos, taken for granted assumptions, behaviours and customs, and political, economic and social-technological ideologies- a combination of conservative and secular progressive orientations. Culture is a multi-layered phenomenon, and it derives its solidity and strength from that characteristic. The environmental factors – those are lying around an individual’s environment, thereby influencing their behaviour. The surrounding environment includes family background, Education, Social environment (e.g., religion), Technology, Peers.

Allow me to concentrate on the subject at hand. Moral development, in my opinion, is the process by which people acquire attitudes, values, beliefs, perceptions, specific skills, and depositions that help them become ethical, honest, and stable human beings. Families and schools are the most effective means of cultivating and sustaining positive cultures. Our surrounding culture is the most powerful and has a significant influence on children’s mindset and behaviour. The majority of people in our society will be unable to avoid the cultural strengths that surround them. Early childhood experience and the surrounding environment are the two most culturally significant factors.

The surrounding culture must be more positive, inclusive, and free of negative stimuli. In the face of an ambiguous and unpleasant surrounding culture, an individual is unlikely to maintain moral givens and value commitment. Our immediate culture has a powerful influence on our outlook and behaviour. It can help us develop our moral aspirations and become ethical citizens who adhere to all social norms. It can also foster a hostile environment in which individuals can become corrupt, unstable, immoral, and harmful citizens who violate all social standards. Assume a society is unable to provide a strong family culture and character education system for children. When an individual fails to protect against the countervailing power of culture, it will have serious consequences in adulthood. In our society, there are numerous examples of such harmful cultural elements. It is critical to create a positive family environment for proper upbringing. Moral education is essential for promoting children’s moral development and nurturing positive attitudes, growth mindset, sensibility, and dispositions, and it should be practised.

The Writer is Educator, author, and researcher
Executive Chair, Centre for Business & Economic Research, UK