Should we even teach our kids ‘right’ and ‘wrong?’

“Fools are bad.” It was a comment out of the mouth of my newly-turned 4-year-old. We were debriefing Day 2 of VBS. The theme is ‘Wisdom & Foolishness.’

I have to admit, his comment startled me. I may even have gasped a little bit out loud.

Such pretension. Such confidence. Such seeds of disdain for these anonymous, faceless ‘fools’ out there…whoever they are (not him!).

I thought for a second. ‘Gospel…Gospel…Good News…where are you in this??’ I searched my mind.

“What am I?” I said. “Wise or a fool?”

He wasn’t quite sure what I was getting at. I could see the wheels turning. I think I’m still beautiful and smart and kind enough (just barely) at this point in our relationship still to make it into his ‘all good,’ therefore ‘wise’ pile. But he has seen me lose it many times before – he himself is the most common catalyst for my losing it  – and my losing it must not look like ‘wisdom’ to him.

I think my answer surprised him.

“Both,” I said. “It depends on the day – or the moment, for that matter.”

So for the rest of the day we’ve been talking off and on about ‘wisdom’ and ‘foolishness’ — how we’re all fools without Jesus, how we’re all still quite a bit of fools with Jesus, and how we all need Jesus every day.


It’s gotten me thinking:

I think most parents would agree that kids need to be taught right and wrong.

Preschoolers/elementary kids are still such concrete (not yet abstract) thinkers.

But the problem is that, more often than not, right and wrong are quite abstract, quite nuanced – not really concrete at all. At least not in the world I live in. And not in the world I see Jesus preaching to.


How do we teach concrete-thinking preschoolers/elementary kids ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ without creating disgusting, anti-Gospel us-them mentality?

How do we teach preschoolers/elementary kids right and wrong without over-generalizing what is ‘right’ (i.e. parents – even when they lose their temper?; Bible – no matter who’s interpreting?; and church – no matter what numbskull might be preaching?) and ‘wrong’ (i.e. TV – even Planet Earth?!; friends – but we need them!)

How do we teach concrete-thinkers right and wrong without reducing the Good News to Good Advice — couched in guilt and fear for being a ‘fool’ or pride for being ‘wise?’

How important is it actually to teach preschoolers/elementary kids ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in vague, generalized, out-of-the-nuances-of-the-situation ‘rules’? Can we just focus on principles instead? And can we focus on listening to and obeying God (Bible + Holy Spirit + prayer + wise friends) in each and every different situation? And oughtn’t the main underbelly of my teaching my kids – the ONE thing they get if they only get ONE thing from me – be that no matter what kind of mess they get themselves in, they can always come home?


One response to “Should we even teach our kids ‘right’ and ‘wrong?’”

  1. So good. May we be safe people who always hold out to others the invitation to come home–knowing it is the invitation and heart of the Father. Thanks, J.