Book Review: The Moral Judgement Of The Child By Jean Piaget

Book Review: The Moral Judgement Of The Child By Jean Piaget

Hello There, welcome back to another one of Jaja’s book reports.. This book is a book on psychology, specifically developmental psychology, which is about the psychological growth of a child/teenager. I chose this book because I got curious at how kids like Alice think. Note that this book is written on 1932, and for fun, I would like to apply some of these cases on children that are given gadgets, but that would be done in an article 2 days from now, so stay tuned…

Main Points:

Well, I’ve seen several info-graphics about these prior to reading the book, but well, Jean Piaget stated in this book that a child has growth stages in which they “evolve” in terms of thoughts and how they interact with each other. All of these stages (that I’m reviewing) are centered more on their habits while they are playing together.

  • Stage 1 (Ages 0-2): Simple Individual Regularity.
    • Children around these ages are only developing in terms of physical growth, and their motoric stimulation. Piaget said that there won’t be lots of info on this because he chooses to focus more on a child’s developmental social interaction, instead of their growth
  • Stage 2 (Ages 2-7): Senior Imitation With Ego-centrism.
    • Children ranging from 2-7 usually imitate the behavior of their adults, usually without thinking why they are imitating that rule. If they play a game (of say, chess), they usually play it for the sake of… well… Playing it. They don’t play for much purpose, and they just enjoy playing, but their regards to the rules will be pinpointed on the way their adults play.
  • Stage 3 (Ages 7-11): Cooperation.
    • Children in the third stage usually begin learning to cooperate with each other, and they play for the sake of social interaction. They play to cooperate with each other, and pretty much that’s all their purpose. The rules they play from are starting to blend from one another, and they choose the rule they think to be the most fair, and play together. Team based games are encouraged for these children.
  • Stage 4 (Ages 11-adults): Interest In Rules, For Their Own Sake
    • Tweens, Teenagers, and Adults now begin to pay more attention to rules. They play games with proper knowledge of the rules, and usually have more courage to defy a certain rule they deem unfair. Therefore, teenagers from these ages are much more suitable to play with a solid set of rules, and are much more open to fair judgement, and modification of certain rules.

Application, And Experimentation

Jean Piaget reviewed some of his theories and concluded several things from his tests on children, here are a few of my thoughts and some of his notes, sorted per stage, but stage 1 will use no Q and A like the other answers, and is just my explanation of it in a nutshell, but since my main interests are on stages 1-3, I won’t include stage 4, because it seems a bit bland for me, and well, my interest on it isn’t as much as my interest on the other stages.

Game Taken As Example: Marbles, which apparently has many different versions in France, unlike some of the traditional games that Indonesia has… The amount of versions available should affect the decision of the child because of the many versions that exist. Also, I don’t really understand the rules of the game that are explained in this book, but it’s basically using your marbles to knock the marbles placed in the center location.

The Marbles Game Piaget Described

Children from each stage are asked a set of questions, and they answered them while noticing points they seem to ignore because of their current views of rules and their purposes, here are the list of questions presented in the book and their answers. (note this isn’t exact, but it should give you a grasp, and it does have the same questions, only slightly different wording)

(Q is short for question that Jean Piaget asked and A is for the answers the child presents)

Stage 1… Simple Individual Regularity

Piaget stated that the sense of law for babies are already starting to grow ever since they are given a certain habit. If parents stick with the habit given, then the child will usually stick to it, and feel bad (usually with crying) if it isn’t accomplished. The more rites made and obeyed, the greater the sense of law for the children in the future. Although, this doesn’t develop any sense of obligation, but more like the fact that they will not stray away too far from the habits.

Piaget also gave heat as an example for this book. If (older) children are told that fire is hot, don’t touch fire or the stove, then they will touch anything… except the stove, to amuse themselves. Their simple minds couldn’t grasp on the why part.

Since I’m supposed to discuss the playing habits of a child, in this book. Well, younger children play with themselves, and usually follow their rites of playing. Now, since I’m supposed to use marbles as an example, when these children are given a set of marbles and left in a room alone with it (well, still observed), at noon, they group them on top of a box, and after dinnertime, they add more to the box, cleaning them up at night time. Eventually, this becomes something of a ritual to them, and if after dinner they don’t get to add more to the box, they cry, or show signs they are upset.

That’s actually pretty cool that a child already has a sense of duty when following a ritual. I should be more like them when doing things like cleaning my bathroom as a weekly activity, not monthly… But ah well… 😀

Stage 2… Senior Imitation With Ego-centrism.

Q: When this town was built, do kids back then play exactly the same as we do?
A: Yes, the same way
Q: So, where did you learn to play?
A: My Father taught me
Q: Well how did he know about the rules?
A: When he was my age he put the marbles in a square like we do now, and then they played it
Q: So, when you made it, did grown ups make it, or did children make it?
A: Grown-ups made it
Q: So, who invented the rules?
A: My daddy did
Q: Really? Then who is the oldest person ever?
A: God!
Q: Well, then what if someone played the game before your daddy?
A: Then, well someone must’ve invented it… I don’t know who…

This shows that the 7 year old child doesn’t even know where the rules come from (although he did know someone must’ve invented it), and therefore, isn’t playing to obey the rules or anything… They play for the sake of playing. In terms of real life, they would obey rules that they could comprehend, but telling them why would matter less to them… As you might see down below.

Q: I see, but since your Father taught you to play Marbles, do you know any other way to play?
A: I do (he shows a different version)
Q: I see, but would you add new rules?
A: I won’t
Q: Why wouldn’t you?
A: Because it’s not the same rules.
Q: Is it fair?
A: Yes, it is fair
Q: But if it is fair, why wouldn’t you add the new rules?
A: I still wouldn’t, because it’s not the same rules

This shows that the child insists on sticking with the rules they know, because they are actually still ignoring the purpose of the rules (which is to make things fair), and they don’t have a concept of adding new rules. They perceive any rule presented to them as fair, but they don’t understand why. Well, this is for games they play anyways…

Q: How did you know that your father, and his father played with the same rules as we are playing right now?
A: I don’t know
Q: Well, just so you know, there are many versions of Marbles, and you are only play one of the versions available. Making your own version won’t really matter, but would you?
A: No I won’t, cause it’s not fair.

From this Piaget proceeded with moving on and setting up a play field where children with different versions of rules play with each other. They proceeded to play with their own set of rules, and didn’t add or discard their rules, as they ignored each other’s rules, and played with their own… proving that they are playing without any purpose other than playing, and they are playing egoistically in a sense. Not all children are like this, but Piaget theorized that most do feel like this, even if they aren’t actually showing it.

Stage 2 is the one that left the most impression for me, cause this is Alice’s stage, and I do feel curious about how she thinks, but I’m a bit not sure about the last set of question and statement, cause Alice seems to care a lot about others obeying rules of the games she plays, and warns her friends if someone doesn’t obey the rules like she did. But the rest of the experiment makes sense to me.

Stage 3… Cooperation.

For stage 2, some of the answers presented are different, depending on who asked it, so there’s A1 and A2

Q: Do you know that there are many versions of marbles, and yours is just one of the many?
A1 and A2: Yeah we do
Q: So, how many versions of Marbles do you know?
A1 and A2: I think 4 or 5
Q: And which version are you playing?
A1: The one my friends want to play, we take turns deciding who gets to decide
A2: We mix up and make one that we agree on.

This is starting to show that they do cooperate from the beginning, before they even play, even when deciding, they still discuss the version of games that they are playing.

Piaget then proceeds to see the kids play… Apparently, they have a rule that if someone wins more than 3 times, one of them may say a keyword (I can’t remember what it was cause it’s in french), and then the winner must move out of their position, and change to a new position. Because maybe, that spot is “giving” them luck. That’s a pretty fun and unique rule as they do understand a concept of luck (or well, it’s just nice angle to shoot the set of marbles from), back on track..

Q: So, if your friends decide to make up a new rule, would you accept it?
A1: We’d vote for it, maybe we’d add some if we think it’s fair
A2: Maybe not, if it’s not the same rules it’s not fair

Not only does this show the differences of the children’s thoughts, but this also shows that there are children that despite they already belong to a certain stage, they still might have some habits of the previous stage.

Q: But well then what are the purpose of rules?
A1 and A2: To make sure that there is no quarreling between players.
Q: How did these rules begin then?
A1: Everyone has a different version, and we vote for them
A2: Some of the boys agreed on them, and made the rules.

By now we could definitely see that they now grasp on the concept of rules, and since their main purpose is to socialize, and a controlled environment would make the process more enjoyable.

Hang on off topic, a bit… So, Jean Piaget mentioned that he once watched kids from this stage play with snowballs, with a set of rules they made, and those rules needed protectors, a president, and attackers… To make sure that the rolling is fair, they took 15-20 minutes to decide who gets to be president, protectors and attackers. They also made sure people take turns to be president, a protector, or an attacker. Piaget must be amazed that these kids are keeping things as fair as possible, and to do so, they need to keep the field under control. Back on track..

Q: Then, could you invent a new rule and show me?
A1: (demonstrates a new rule that Azriel couldn’t really understand, but it’s luck based)
A2: (demonstrates a new rule to make the game a bit easier by enabling players to shoot an additional marble if they knocked more than one out)
Q: Could you play like that with your friends?
A1: This seems a bit luck based, and my friends might not like it
A2: This makes the game unfair, and my friends might disagree…
Q: But what if everyone plays the same way?
A1 and A2: Well that won’t be a problem then, we can play like that

This shows that they actually care a lot about their friend’s opinions, and even though they dislike their own rules, they prioritize their friends’ opinion on that. This also proves kids might have rules up their sleeves, since Piaget stated that it’s pretty fast for them to invent the rules. It isn’t stated about their personal opinions on the rule, but this actually shows that they care more about their friends opinions.

I’m concluding from the evidence presented to me from the things I have read and written for this stage, and this is an important stage for children to develop their empathy. This stage also left a mark on me cause I noticed how much kids tolerate each other to be able to play with them, and make a conflict-free environment so they could have fun with playing. Grown-ups should also be able to tolerate differences like kids do, what went wrong in the teenage stages… Oh… a lot of things went wrong? Never mind that

Conclusion and Personal Thoughts

Well, so firstly, I would conclude that it’s a very important thing to care for your kids playing games and interacting with each other. If one doesn’t grasp on the concept of rules, then chances of rebellion is getting worse. To make someone grasp the concept of rules, we can introduce to them with a simple way of asking them to play board games while they’re still young. Just because they don’t understand the “why” of rules, doesn’t mean they disobey them…

For my own thoughts, I personally enjoy this book a lot, and I believe that not everything stated in this book can be applied to the children of today… Which you can check out in my next few posts!


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