Giving Your Kids the Moral Reason Why

Joey and Carla Link

April 26, 2023

Kids ask you “why” all the time. When they are toddlers and preschoolers they want to know “why” the stoplight is red and why is it green. As they grow, they want to understand “why” you stop when the light is red and “why” you go when the light is green. When they are teenagers, they might wonder “why” you should stop when the light is red just because someone said you should.

In the parenting class Growing Kids God’s Way, we learned there are 3 types of “why” questions and I described them above. The first is the “why” of “curiosity”. The 2nd is the “why” of “comprehension” (understanding) and the third is the “why” of challenge”. Parents should answer the first two but never the last.

Then there is the “moral reason why”. As parents, we need to give our children the “moral reason why’” before they ask for it partly because they won’t know to ask for it. 
How does the moral reason why differ from the ones above?  Giving your kids the reason why something should be done a certain way for example, is giving them comprehension, or understanding. Giving them the moral reason for doing something is sharing with them how God wants us to do something.

You tell your 6 yr. old that he can’t hit his 3 yr. old brother even though he took away the toy the 6 yr. old was playing with. Your 6 yr. old wants to know “why”? His brother was mean to him and he wants to know why he can’t be mean back. You tell him because it isn’t being kind to him. Your son says his brother wasn’t kind to him so why does he have to be kind back. You tell him that he’s older and needs to set an example and you are dealing with the 3 yr. old so he will not hit him again.

That is the “why of comprehension”, so let’s try it again, this time making our explanation the “moral reasoning why”. You show him in the Bible (always have one handy that is not on your phone, kids need to learn it is a book apart from everything else on your phone) in Ephesians 4:32 where it says,

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
as God in Christ forgave you.”

Ask him if it says anywhere in this verse that you don’t have to be kind if your brother is mean to you. He will say it doesn’t. Ask him what he can do to show kindness to his brother even though he was mean to him. Ask him if God will think it was a big deal if he is kind to his brother especially after his brother was mean to him. Ask him if he is willing to do what he came up with that will show his brother kindness and if he says he isn’t, have him sit with no freedoms until he is willing. This is showing your child the moral reason why something should be done. “Moral” means to do something the right way according to God, not the world.

Be good”, “Stay out of trouble” and “Settle down” are neutral statements. You really expect your kids, especially if they are with their siblings or other kids to stop and think about what “good” or “trouble” looks like in that moment, or to know what you mean by “settle down”? A different way of handling this would be to say, “Stay out of trouble. Give me two examples of what you think I mean by ‘trouble’.” “Trouble” can vary given the circumstance, so having them define it on the spot puts you and your child on the same page.
Instead of telling your son to pick up his toys, ask him to pick up his blocks and put them in the red bin, then come tell you when he is done. When he comes back to you ask him to pick up his books that are all over the floor and put them in the yellow bin and so forth. Go check and see if he put the toys where you told him to and if he did, praise him for putting them in the right colored bins then tell him how much you and God liked it when he obeyed.
The best way to teach your children the “moral reason why” is to talk about it as you go about the normal tasks of the day. When you read a book to a young child, ask a couple questions like, “Why do you think the elephant thought he should be kind to the turtle?” When my kids could read for themselves, when I was making dinner or folding laundry, I would ask one of them to come and read to me and then we could talk about it.
Asking questions will show what your kids know. One of my daughters was impulsive and always wanted to be first at everything, but especially when it came to getting in the car. To work on this, we told our 6 yr. old she had to wait to get in the car when we were going somewhere until her siblings got in. I asked her why I wanted her to do this, and she immediately said it was because she pushed her way in to be first. When I asked her why this was wrong, she said because it was not fair and someone got hurt. I asked her how she could show me she was working on it. She told me she could stand quietly while she was waiting apart from everyone else. That is the other thing to keep in mind when teaching your children the “moral reason why”, it changes, not in definition but in application with age. Keep your “defining” as simple as your kids have the maturity to understand.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,
a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
2 Timothy 2:15