Conscience Talking -- by Cara
Robin posed a question to all of us Moms: When does your child realize right from wrong and if they know they are doing something wrong, when and how do you teach them to do what is right?
I decided to bring this up in today’s blog because shortly after I read Robin’s blog, I was in the kitchen with my son, making dinner, and my son was watching one of those Disney shows geared more towards the teenage crowd. But what caught both of our attention was that one of the “cool” characters evidently did not do something very nice to one of his friends, so the “cool” character’s “nerdy” friend took upon the role of “cool kid’s” conscience.
Because this was the theme of the show, and the word “conscience” was used very frequently, my son asked, “Mommy? What IS conscience?” This was a perfect opportunity to at least instill a grain of what Robin was looking to do with her own son. I waited until a commercial came on, turned the television off, and sat down with my son to try to explain what “conscience” was. I asked, “Have you ever been on the playground or playing with friends and all of a sudden one kid starts calling another kid names?” And he nodded yes. So I continued, “And I’m sure it made you feel confused inside because you didn’t want to be the only one NOT calling the kid names.” And he nodded his head. But because I know what a good person you are, when you actually did call the kid names, it didn’t make you feel very good about yourself...am I right?” And he said, “Yes.” So I explained, that is what “conscience” is. When you do or say something that you know deep down inside isn’t right. But sometimes you end up doing it anyway so that you don’t get picked on either. You end up feeling not so good about yourself. That’s what conscience is...realizing what is good and not good and trying to choose to do what is good because it will make you feel much prouder inside! You will know you chose the right thing to do! And there will be times when you know you should do the right thing, but the feeling to choose the wrong thing will be so strong that you will have a hard time NOT doing it. Then you will not feel good and proud inside. That feeling is called guilt. And guilt helps us to make the right choice the next time even though we made a wrong choice this time.”
Because in the show, the “nerdy” friend was portrayed as the “cool kid’s” conscience, my son asked, “So I have to pick a friend to be my conscience?” And I smiled and said, “No honey, the TV show is using friends as a way to show the “cool kid” how he really should be behaving. Can you see how the “cool kid” is having a hard time trying to decide if he should do the right thing or not? His “conscience” friend is really a friend we all have in our minds...in our heads. Conscience is not outside you, it is inside you and it helps to make you think about what you do before you do it. It helps you decide to do what is good so that it makes you feel good.” My son seemed to at least grasp that conscience was something in your head that controlled “good” and “bad” behavior.
Now, do I think that most of this explanation will have blown by my son like the wind? Of course. But he was asking appropriate questions, so SOME of my dissertation must have stuck with him. And he will remember at least a fraction of our conversation of “right versus wrong.” And knowing my son, out of the blue, he will remember bits and pieces of our conversation and will want me to explain again. And I will be more than willing to do so. I opened up a dialog that I hope will be ongoing. I’m certain that my son will at least REMEMBER that we had SOME kind of conversation when he is faced with a right versus wrong situation. And I would hope that he would come to me and share what happened to discuss whether he chose the correct behavior. And if he is too wracked with guilt over something he did that he REALLY regrets, I hope he comes to me so that I can explain to him that he is feeling very guilty, very sorry about what he did, and also discuss how we can make the situation right again. And that maybe next time, he should be listening a little more closely to his “conscience”.