If a child’s conscience is trained against lying, it would lean towards telling the truth, writes John Muturi
A child’s conscience is not handed to her ready-made. Conscience is that element in personality that prompts an individual to act in harmony with what she believes to be right.
In order to have a trustworthy conscience, a person must first develop the ideals on which her code of conduct is based.
Conscience enables a person to measure her choices and activities by comparison with her personal code. If a certain suggestion is consistent with one’s established pattern, conscience at once approves. Thus it might even approve of telling a lie to save face, if one’s personal code did not prohibit.
But, on the other hand, if conscience has been trained against lying, it would lean towards telling the truth, even at the expense of some humiliation.
A young child’s conscience, therefore, has to be developed. This presents parents with an opportunity and responsibility to help their child understand what is acceptable and what isn’t. Early training establishes in the child the first steps of conscience by which she classifies certain things as ‘right’ and others as ‘wrong’.
The parent has an opportunity during the child’s formative years to help mould her personal code.
A child’s satisfaction or dissatisfaction with this code largely depends on her appraisal of her parents. If they represent the kind of person she wants to be, then she will accept their code of ethics or chart her own if dissatisfied with their way of life.
As children go through childhood, the initial attachment develops into a more intricate process of identification. On the one hand, the child directly imitates the characteristics of the parents. For instance, copying certain mannerisms, styles of speech, or any kind of habitual behaviour that is often experienced by the child through observation.
The second identification is how children experience their parents as opposed to how they imitate them. For instance, if parents are attentive, respectful, and nurturing, the child internalises these characteristics as the way to relate to others.
Religious beliefs influence parents as they guide a child in her understanding of what is right and wrong.