The Gradual Development of True Values
by Phyllis Wallbank MBE
To see a world in a grain of sand
And Heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.
Up to the age of six, the young child is absorbing his whole environment and
in a good environment, he gets to know love. We can help him to learn the
love of God through the sacraments and through helping him to know the life
and parables of Our Lord. Everyone has to feel loved to be able to give love
and so this is a very important stage for the understanding of love and the
love of God.
As the child blossoms as he gets recognition for kindness and truth and as
he is introduced to beauty within nature and in man’s achievements, so he
Now as he approaches the age of reason and sees the actions of friends and
grownups in the wider world, he begins to wonder and question his own and
other people’s actions. This is the stage for our help by discussion of true
values, by giving the stories of lives of heroism, lives of the saints, and
above all to get to know Jesus as a friend by talking to him through prayer.
This is a natural development following the experience and greater
understanding of the Mass. When the child is six years old he is sensitive
to morality. He often comes and tells you when he sees something done by
another child that he now thinks is wrong. He comes and tells you to see
your reaction. When he tells of someone’s wrong doing it is really a
question, “This is wrong, I think it’s wrong but I shall have to ask you to
see if you are angry and horrified.” We should therefore always say if the
action is wrong but now is the time to do three things:
1) Show what you think and affirm him.
2) Where possible get him to go to see if he can put matters right. (Do not
run off to punish as a result of his telling!)
3) Do show the difference between hating the sin and loving the sinner.
Now that he has grown to know and love Our Lord and has a personal
relationship with him, he needs instruction in the commandments of Our Lord;
To love God with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength; to love his
neighbour as himself. We need not to leave out that last part. We should
always be careful to help him to hold his own uniqueness with real self
esteem as he as a unique person is loved and wanted by God. It is salutary
if we examine our own conscience on each item and then help the child to
examine his. This is best done by positive rather than by negative
examination: At night or whenever seems appropriate look together at events
when he showed love in each of its different forms and rejoice together each
time. Everyone has a continual flowing of reflective thought and this
blossoms at this age at about six. This means that he uses an inner judgment
to bring out the times when he achieved an action that exemplified our
When his own reflective judgment brings out the fact of a negation of love,
then is the time to teach him to ask forgiveness. He must of course know
what forgiveness really means and that the greatest love and forgiveness is
as Christ showed us in the parable of the Prodigal Son.
It is this inner reflectiveness that we should seek to develop by
accentuating the good. In this way the person is affirmed and will be able
to see the basis for his actions by his own reflection and not by external
pressure. When he expresses consciously a weakness, then is the time for the
help of Confession.
The First Communion may well have come before this or it may come together
with Confession. The important thing is now to let a natural examination
come from the spotlighting of the good. The inborn questioning and inborn
reflectiveness will bring about then the times that cannot be rejoiced
about, because the good cannot be found without inward rejection of the
negative. When the child is ready for confession, the priest will help the
development of a new ATTITUDE to help him avoid the continuance of habitual
sin. He will have the knowledge of being able to start again with a clean
sheet and the penance, usually a short prayer, will fill the child with
relief and love knowing that he can start again now with added help as he
will have the willingness to act with true values from a base of love.