Our six-year-old son has been talking a lot about baddies recently, so Ben decided to probe him on it.
Ben: What’s the difference between a baddy and a goody?
Daniel: Baddies are always fighting goodies.
Ben: But if you see two people fighting, how do you know who is the baddy and who is the goody?
Daniel: The baddy wears baddy clothes.
Ben: But don’t you think that if you were a baddy, you’d wear something different, instead of baddy clothes, so that people didn’t know you were a baddy?
Daniel: (nods in agreement)
Ben: So how to you tell baddies from goodies?
Daniel: Baddies are holding their weapons but goodies are carrying their weapons in their bags.
Ben: But don’t you think if you were a baddy, you’d try to make people think you were a goody by also carrying your weapon in your bag?
Daniel: (thinking about this)
Ben: Do you think baddies sometimes do good things and goodies sometimes do bad things?
Daniel: (still thinking)
This had me if fits of laughter but it also got me thinking about a subject I hold dear: ethics. It can be hard for adults to determine whether something or someone is good or bad. Imagine how confusing it must be for a child. Imagine if real baddies did wear baddy clothes? Everyone would know who they are which I’m sure would seriously cramp their style. Would they still be bad?
But giving our children an understanding of ethics is perhaps the most important task we, as parents, have. As young members of our society, children must learn to share, to consider each other’s needs and desires and to treat other people with kindess and equity and their first understanding of this comes from within their homes.
Peter Singer writes in The Guardian, that we need elephant mothers, not tiger mothers:
“We should aim for our children to be good people, and to live ethical lives that manifest concern for others as well as for themselves. This approach to childrearing is not unrelated to happiness: there is abundant evidence that those who are generous and kind are more content with their lives than those who are not. But it is also an important goal in its own right.
Tigers lead solitary lives, except for mothers with their cubs. We, by contrast, are social animals. So are elephants, and elephant mothers do not focus only on the wellbeing of their own offspring. Together, they protect and take care of all the young in their herd, running a kind of daycare centre.
If we all think only of our own interests, we are headed for collective disaster – just look at what we are doing to our planet’s climate. When it comes to raising our children, we need fewer tigers and more elephants.”