Morality While Motoring

Depending on where we lived at the time, we have had anywhere from a twenty to fifty (!) minute drive to the classical Christian school my children attend. As such, we have devoted plenty of effort over the years to developing creative ways to pass the time. During our commute, we have played many guessing games, alphabet games, license plate games, and so on. However, a game I came up with on a whim proved to be the most valuable (and fun!) of all.

The game, called “Moral, Immoral or Amoral”, involved me presenting a scenario to the kids, which they then had to evaluate to determine whether it was moral, immoral or amoral in nature. For example, I might say, “A friend of yours fell down on the playground, and you went over, helped him up and checked to make sure he was ok.” They would think about it, and quickly determine that this represented a moral action, so I would hear a chorus of “Moral!” from the back seat. I would give them other scenarios that demonstrated immorality, such as stealing a candy bar from a store, telling a lie, or disobeying a parent’s instructions. The amoral scenarios were sometimes silly, including “disliking onions” or “choosing to play Monopoly instead of Operation,” so those provided some giggles during the drive as well.

The upshot is that although we were having fun, my children were learning some fundamental truths about right living and excellent character. One of the features of classical education that I was drawn to was the focus on teaching children how to think, rather than what to think. This game accomplished that by challenging my kids to think through a situation, look at it through a Biblical lens and determine what was going on. And the ability to do it in such a fun way was definitely a bonus!

I encourage parents to give this fun yet meaningful game a try. “Moral, Immoral or Amoral” is completely customizable.  Parents can use it for preschoolers through young adult children, and it can be tailored to age, maturity level and even specific scenarios your particular family encounters. Certainly, the first time you play you may need to define the terms, particularly with younger children. But soon, the kids will take off with it, allowing you to add all sorts of variations, or increase the difficulty as your children mature. One idea is to have the children (rather than the parent) give each other some scenarios to decipher. Or you might challenge the kids to back up their answer with a Scripture (i.e. “Mom, the situation where the student was lying to the teacher is immoral because Proverbs 12:22 tells us that the Lord ‘detests lying lips.’”) I do have a personal favorite “twist” I enjoyed using once my children were well versed in the game. I would give them an initial scene and then tweak it in such a way that their answer would need to shift as well. Consider the following game scenario:

Parent: “Riding a bike…moral, immoral or amoral?”

Kids: “Amoral!”

Parent: “What about riding a bike on the church grounds during fellowship hour with elderly people and small children around?”

This requires the children to add a layer of complexity and context to the scenario. They now need to evaluate the danger of running over a toddler with the bike, bumping into an older adult who might be holding hot coffee, or any number of other issues. They must think about the values behind the behavior as well, by considering concepts such as loving their neighbor, honoring age, and the like. Once they do, their new answer should be that this exact situation is “immoral,” at least on a micro level.

It may seem strange, but this little game actually became a favorite for my children, and they would often request it during those longer car rides. We came to enjoy the intellect required, as well as the laughter along the way.

As parents seeking to raise children biblically in the classical tradition, we ought to continue diligently searching for innovative and engaging tools to spark conversations about integrity and character. Perhaps games like “Moral, Immoral or Amoral” can provide one such means to that essential end.

Deana Thayer, M. Ed.