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Understanding Ethical Development

Dobrin, Arthur. Ethical People and How They Get to Be That Way (in press). This book will be available through the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island. Check for availability at Dobrin has taught a wide range of courses including moral education at Hofstra University and led the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island for over thirty years. Ethical People is academic and philosophical in tone, with in-depth treatments of topics including research on children's moral reasoning, empathy, and a chapter on social issues affecting moral development. To get a feel for the scope of this book, see "Forty Things You Can Do to Raise a Moral Child" in the first Appendix of this book.

Faber, Adele, and Elaine Mazlish. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk (New York: Avon Books, 1999) A practical, enjoyable oldie-still-goodie, How to Talk teaches communication skills that put parents and kids on the same team, solving problems together. It helps new parents start off right and others change ways that haven't been working. There are plenty of practical exercises and anecdotes; new chapters answer questions from readers. The best chapter may be the one on helping kids step out of old roles.

Greater Good Science Center (at UC Berkeley), "Half Full Blog" http://greatergood.berkeley. edu/half_full/

"Tools... for parents interested in raising happy and emotionally literate kids." A growing list of articles and videos on everything from "how to praise" to "helping kids ... replace bad habits with good ones." It includes a complete list of references to original research—and translates them into understandable, practical terms.

Institute for Humanist Studies Parenting Resources

Columns by and for humanist parents; reviews of books, DVDs, games, and other products; information on secular ceremonies; analysis of research and claims about parenting and child development; and links to other resources for humanist families.

Kohn, Alfie. Unconditional Parenting: Moving From Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason (New York: Atria Books, 2005). The title says it all. Not a general parenting book, but a thorough, well researched discussion of the disadvantages of both punishments and rewards (yes, really!), explaining why they are methods for controlling rather than supporting children.

Article "Beyond the Golden Rule: A Parent's Guide to Preventing and Responding to Prejudice" at

Introduction to Parenting Styles

Berkowitz, M.W., and J.H. Grych. "Fostering Goodness: Teaching Parents to Facilitate Children's Moral Development." Journal of Moral Education, 27(3) (1998), 371-391. Available online at Berkowitz/Berkowitz.html, this article includes a table correlating "Child Moral Development Outcomes" with "Selected Parenting Variables"; for example, "induction" is correlated with empathy, conscience, altruism, and moral reasoning.

Crosser, Sandra. "Helping Young Children to Develop Character." Early Childhood News ( ArticleID=246). Includes practical tips such as "Listen to children:... Physically get down on the child's level Ask questions ...," and advice for setting standards and negotiating solutions.

Exploring Humanist Ethics

American Ethical Union, "Eight Commitments of Ethical Culture"

Bennett, Helen. Humanism, What's That? A Book for Curious Kids (New York: Prometheus, 2005). For ages 10 and up, this book might be too simple for some 14-year-olds. The circumstances given for a teacher's discussion of humanism with some of her students seem unrealistic, but the students ask questions your kids are likely to hear from their peers, and the teacher's answers are comprehensive and clear. Discuss the book with your kids; don't just hand it to them. It's a reasonable overview, and you can fill in the gaps. Activities and discussion questions mix suggestions that are appropriate for different ages and aren't clearly related to the text.

Pearson, Beth. "The Art of Creating Ethics Man." Originally appearing in The Herald of Scotland in January 2006, this outstanding article provides a sum mary of the latest research in moral development, quite directly opposing the usual perspective of religious adherents. A long excerpt is available at the British Humanist Association website at contentViewArticle.asp?article=2134.

Grayling, A.C. Meditations for the Humanist: Ethics for a Secular Age (London: Oxford University Press, 2003). One of the best available titles addressing humanist ethics through naturalistic reflections on human life.

International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU). "Statement of Fundamental Principles." A shorter version is at

Wisdom Quotes

Jone Johnson-Lewis, leader of the Northern Virginia Ethical Society has selected eloquent, thought-provoking quotations. Categories include "Humanism," "Ethics," "Compassion."

Books for the Kids

Association for Library Service to Children, "Recommended Book Lists"

Topics include "Holidays," "Growing Up Around the World," " Diversity," and more.

Barker, Dan. Maybe Right, Maybe Wrong (Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 1992). A classic and a winner. Ages 6-10.

Dobrin, Arthur. Love Your Neighbor: Stories of Values and Virtues (New York: Scholastic, 1999). Kids will want to read this delightfully illustrated book over and over. Stories are rich: In each one, there's more going on than the value in question. For example, different family types are presented, and settings and characters stimulate curiosity ("What is a cuscus?""Where is Tashkent?"). Each story ends with a thoughtful question, not an obvious "moral." Used in the Ethical Culture curriculum described on p. 61. Pre-K to 6.

Gordon, Sol. All Families Are Different (Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2000). Simple, nonjudgmental descriptions of all kinds of families, emphasizing that what really matters is that "you" (the reader) are loved. Ages 4-8.

Humphrey, Sandra McLeod. It's Up to You... What Do You Do? (ages 9-12) and More If You Had to Choose What Would You Do? (ages 7+) (Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 1999 and 2003). If You Had to Choose... was reviewed in Parenting Beyond Belief, and the stories in It's Up to You have much the same strengths and weaknesses. They are conversation starters more than stories. The situations and conflicts they describe are realistic, but characters are not developed. Sometimes, the questions at the end of the stories point to an obvious moral, but you and your child can make up your own questions.

Clegg, Luther B., et al. "How to Choose the Best Multicultural Books" in Scholastic Books Parents' Resources, .jsp?id=3757. Article includes reviews of fifty children's books—ten each for five ethnic groups.

Cohen, Randy. The Good, the Bad, and the Difference: How to Tell Right from Wrong in Everyday Situations (New York: Doubleday, 2002). Reprints of the New York Times Magazine column "The Ethicist." Chapters include "Family Life" and "School Life," with replies to readers' criticisms. Don't miss "I Demand a Recant," describing how Cohen changed his mind after getting more information, demonstrating how people may justifiably change their minds. Witty answers to questions so down-to-earth that my grocer posted a column in the produce section. Ages 14 and up.

Helping Parents Find Books on Ethics for Kids

Council on Interracial Books for Children. "10 Quick Ways to Analyze Children's Books,"

Linville, Darla. "Queer & Questioning Teens." index2.cfm?PFID=160. Reviews of twelve novels and story collections with gay teen characters.

Roberts, Lisen C., and Heather T. Hill. "Children's Books That Break Gender Role Stereotypes" (National Association for the Education of Young Children, 2003)

Ethical Education Curricula

Lassen, Veronica, and Debbie Grieb. "Heart Talk for Kids" curriculum. "Our community has tried the 'Heart Talk' curriculum," says Jone Johnson-Lewis, Leader of the Northern Virginia Ethical Society. "It's based on the principles of Non-Violent Communication and is wonderfully humanistic. The teachers tell me it's one of the best they've worked with, for detailed instructions that help them feel confident about teaching. They only needed to make a couple of minor adaptations. Parents are using words like 'transformed' about how it's impacted their families." The curriculum has different modules for different age groups.

The curriculum is designed for use in established moral education programs. You could recommend it to your group's educator or use it in a parents' group that has been functioning for at least two years.

Outline, ordering information, sample lesson at lassen0807.php.

Religious Education Committee of the American Ethical Union. "Love Your Neighbor: An Exploration of Values"—preschool through elementary age. Free download from American Ethical Union at library/articles/Love_Your_Neighbor_exploration.pdf. Each lesson is based on a story from Arthur Dobrin's Love Your Neighbor (reviewed with other books on moral reasoning), with lots of optional activities and ideas that parents can use a small groups or even one child. What's great about this curriculum is that it shows how to bring stories to life or your children, integrating with other experiences and leading to reflection.


Spring, Janis A. How Can I Forgive You? The Courage to Forgive, the Freedom Not to (New York: HarperCollins, 2004). The examples and discussions in this book emphasize adult relationships and experiences, but it goes deeply into the principles and practices outlined in the "Steps to Seeking Forgiveness" in the Appendix. Also, if you have unresolved problems with your parents, this book might help you cope with pain that could otherwise affect your relationships with your own children.

Greater Good magazine. Symposium on forgiveness, including an article on how to apologize.

Experiencing and Appreciating Diversity Nondiscriminatory Extracurricular Programs for Kids

4-H clubs serve 6.5 million urban and rural youth nationwide, with programs in science, engineering and technology, healthy living, and citizenship. 4-H groups are sponsored by extension programs at public universities and cannot discriminate on the basis of religion. Find a nearby club at Camp Fire USA now serves both boys and girls. Camp Fire is "inclusive, open to every person in the communities we serve, welcoming children, youth and adults regardless of race, religion, or other aspect of diversity. [Our] programs are designed ... to reduce ... stereotypes and to foster positive intercultural relationships." Use the "Council Locator" at to find a group near you. The National Camp Association (NCA) provides a free summer camp referral service online, offering personalized guidance and referrals for parents selecting a residential "sleepaway." All camps recommended by NCA "are accredited in accordance with government regulations and have received a positive evaluation from NCA and from parents." NCA does not accredit camps that have discriminatory policies. The Sierra Club Inner City Outings program provides low-income, innercity youth with trips to the wilderness. "Is moving towards its long-term commitment to give every child in America an opportunity to have an outdoor experience." So far this program has developed activities in only a few states.

Programs for Ethical Education and Action Facing History and Ourselves

This nonprofit offers teacher education, curriculum resource development, traveling exhibits (with study guides), community conversations, and other programs to promote tolerance and civic engagement by teaching about historical events such as the Holocaust and desegregation. Visit this site to find out how you can bring its programs to your children's schools or your community.

Tell your middle- and high-school-age kids about the "Be the Change" website with stories of students around the world who have found ways to make a difference.

This award-winning website is a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center. With pages for parents, teachers, teens, and kids, this site is brimming with resources for promoting tolerance, fighting bigotry, and celebrating diversity. Look for the map to locate social justice groups in your community (www Beyond the Golden Rule: A Parent's Guide to Preventing and Responding to Prejudice is a 31-page handbook with age-specific advice, downloadable by clicking the book-cover icon at www

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Perry, Susan K. Playing Smart: The Family Guide to Enriching, Offbeat Learning Activities (Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing, 2001). Chapter 12, "Cultural Diversity: It's All Relative" is jam-packed with fascinating activities and information, including body language in different cultures and "Global Game-Playing." Order online at

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