Stage 4: social-order maintaining orientation. Late primary onwards

Considering and valuing others is the key moral developmental task when raising a child.  You cannot make this happen, and you cannot do it for them, but there are things you can do to support them to develop a moral approach that considers relationships and the group’s functioning. 

The answer to “Why should I?” at stage 4 moves beyond one’s own self-interest (punishment / reward), or getting other’s approval (“good girl”).  The young person at this stage is valuing their group, and because they care about their group, its benefit is their benefit.  Anything that damages the functioning and trust of the group is seen as immoral, and moral actions are those that keep the group running well and that fit within the rules of the group.  

The most powerful group (while a child is dependent) is the family group.  For good or ill, the most influential place to learn about right and wrong is thus within the family.  Being good role models ourselves is the most important teacher, but a close second is how we communicate within the family about right and wrong.

Moving from stage 3 to 4 occurs when the motivation is not to get the approval of the group, but rather the motivation comes from the young person’s beliefs about what is good for the group itself.  

But the other big change from stage 3 to 4 is that discussions around right and wrong increasingly use the language and understanding of why the family has certain rules.  Up until then, the why of good and bad does not matter, only the getting of benefit, or getting approval. Talking about and creating values-based rules as a family is one way of nurturing stage 4 morality as all get to wonder about and decide on:

These discussions can be done in a planned way as a whole family as outlined in chapter nine, or in a more ad hoc 1:1 way when problems arise. However they are done and whatever the setting, it is the curious conversation about right and wrong from a group perspective that is important.

Of course if your child is in control-combat-avoid mode when offering this discussion, it won’t be a conversation, rather it will be an adversarial debate. Such conversations are only possible if everyone is cool, calm and connected enough so they want to understand each other, repair whatever went wrong, and make a plan that suits the group. I’ve attached the video about one way to do this here. (NB: the 5 videos take a total of 50 minutes)