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Book Review
Building Moral Intelligence
The Seven Essential Virtues That Teach Kids to Do the Right Thing

Michele Borba, Ed.D.

Reviewed by Krissi Gayle
Copley OH USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 21 No. 4, July-August 2004, p. 140

At the birth of a new baby, a parent's first question is often, "Is my baby healthy?" The birth attendant can easily answer that. But, another important question is far more complex: "Will my child become a good and decent human being?"

Building Moral Intelligence is a wonderfully direct and detailed handbook to assist parents in doing just this, raising children who will grow to be respectful, kind, and moral adults.

Michele Borba has identified seven attributes that define a morally strong child. Three virtues form the core of moral intelligence: empathy, conscience, and self-control. The other four virtues, respect, kindness, tolerance, and fairness, then combine to form what we know about integrity, justice, and citizenship. These principles together create a child's "moral compass," guiding the way toward responsible living in harmony with others.

Borba sees the powerful connection between parent and child as critical for optimal moral growth and she reinforces this throughout the book. There are concrete and detailed examples of ways in which parents can teach, model, and nurture their children's character development while further deepening their relationship.

In discussing a virtue, each section contains a short "quiz" to evaluate a child's strengths and needs. Steps and activities to enhance the concept follow each assessment. Several highlighted boxes, titled "Moral Intelligence Builders," present suggestions for fostering the development of a particular virtue. For example, in the chapter on respect, Borba lists "Eight Simple Ways to Show Your Children You Respect and Cherish Them." One way is to give your child a small photo album containing pictures of just the two of you. Another idea is to write an annual letter to your child telling him or her why you're glad he or she is part of your life. Read the letter together. Then, save all these letters and give them to the child as a special twenty-first birthday present. When discussing another virtue, fairness, Borba offers "Signs of a Strong Sense of Fairness to Share with Kids." These signs are well-defined aspects of fairness you can teach a child. Children are more likely to integrate qualities of fairness into their daily lives when they are aware of what fairness actually looks like. Building Moral Intelligence recognizes children's developmental stages and capabilities and provides suggestions for adapting the principles for toddlers to teenagers.

Borba recognizes the adverse climate that confronts families striving to instill positive virtues. The decrease of prominent role models, the increase in obscene language and crudeness flaunted by the media, the decline of meaningful community support, and the abundance of inappropriate videos and Internet sites can be threatening to families trying to nurture their children. Each chapter addresses these overt and subtle dangers and provides suggestions to counteract their influence on children. Parents will feel a camaraderie with Borba as she guides the way for healthy families.

A wonderful bonus to the book is the inclusion of an extensive resource section. Borba suggests books, videos, and Web sites for parents, teachers, and children to enrich discussion of the seven virtues. The book is extremely easy to read, either in its entirety or just one specific section. Building Moral Intelligence is an essential guide for parents on the journey of raising a child to be an incredible person.

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