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The Children's Code of Morals


This was prepared by William J. Hutchins for the Character Education Institution. I found it reprinted in the 1924 book "Home: the Savior of Civilization" by J. E. McCullouch. I think it represents a pretty good set of core beliefs for a parent to teach his or her progeny.

This code was awarded the Donor’s prise of $5,000 in the National Morality Codes Competition, 1916, for the best Children’s Code of Morals, the judges being Professor George Trumbull Ladd, of Yale University; Justice Mahlon Pitney, of the Supreme Court of the United States, and President, Mrs. Phillip North Moore, of the National Council of Women. All the states participated and the competition was under the auspices of the Character Education Institution.

Children's Code of Morals

Boys and girls who are good Americans try to become strong and useful, that our country may become ever greater and better. Therefore they obey the laws of right living which the best Americans have always obeyed.

I - The Law of Health

The Good American Tries to Gain and to Keep Perfect Health

The welfare of our country depends upon those who try to be physically fit for their daily work. Therefore:

  1. I will keep my clothes, my body and my mind clean.
  2. I will avoid those habits which would harm me, and will make and never break those habits which will help me.
  3. I will try to take such food, sleep and exercise as will keep me in perfect health.

II - The Law of Self-Control

The Good American Controls Himself

Those who best control themselves can best serve their country.

  1. I will control my tongue, and will not allow it to speak mean, vulgar or profane words.
  2. I will control my temper, and will not get angry when people or things displease me.
  3. I will control my thoughts, and will not allow a foolish wish to spoil a wise purpose.

III - The Law of Self-Reliance

The Good American Is Self-Reliant

Self-conceit is silly, but self-reliance is necessary to boys and girls who would be strong and useful.

  1. I will gladly listen to the advice of older and wiser people; I will reverence the wishes of those who love and care for me, and who know life and me better than I; but I will learn to think for myself, choose for myself, act for myself.
  2. I will not be afraid of being laughed at. I will not be afraid of doing right when the crowd does wrong. Fear never made a good American.

IV - The Law of Reliability

The Good American Is Reliable

Our country grows great and good as her citizens are able more fully to trust each other. Therefore:

  1. I will be honest, in word and in act. I will not lie, sneak, or pretend, nor will I keep the truth from those who have a right to it.
  2. I will not do wrong in the hope of not being found out. I cannot hide the truth from myself and cannot often hide it from others.
  3. I will not take without permission what does not belong to me.
  4. I will do promptly what I have promised to do. If I have made a foolish promise, I will at once confess my mistake, and I will try to make good any harm which my mistake may have caused. I will so speak and act that people will find it easier to trust each other.

V - The Law of Clean Play

The Good American Plays Fair

Clean play increases and trains one’s strength, and helps one to be more useful to one’s country. Therefore:

  1. I will not cheat, nor will I play for keeps. If I should not play fair, the loser would lose the fun of the game, the winner would lose his self-respect, and the game itself would become a mean and often cruel business.
  2. I will treat my opponent with courtesy.
  3. If I play in a group game, I will play, not for my own glory, but for the success of my team and the fun of the game.
  4. I will be a good loser or a generous winner.

VI - The Law of Duty

The Good American Does His Duty

The shirker or the willing idler lives upon the labor of others, burdens others with the work which he ought to do himself. He harms his fellow-citizens, and so harms his country.

I will try to find out what my duty is, what I ought to do, and my duty I will do, whether it is easy or hard. What I ought to do I can do.

VII - The Law of Good Workmanship

The Good American Tries to do the Right Thing in the Right Way

The welfare of our country depends upon those who have learned to do in the right way the things that ought to be done. Therefore:

  1. I will get the best possible education, and learn all that I can from those who have learned to do the right thing in the right way.
  2. I will take an interest in my work, and will not be satisfied with slip-shod and merely passable work. A wheel or a rail carelessly made may cause the death of hundreds.
  3. I will try to do the right thing in the right way, even when no one else sees or praises me. But when I have done my best, I will not envy those who have done better, or have received larger reward. Envy spoils the work and the worker.

VIII - The Law of Team-Work

The Good American Works in Friendly Co-operation with His Fellow-Workers

One man alone could not build a city or a great railroad. One man alone would find it hard to build a house or a bridge. That I may have bread, men have sowed and reaped, men have made plows and threshers, men have built mills and mined coal, men have made stoves and kept stores. As we learn better how to work together, the welfare of our country is advanced.

  1. In whatever work I do with others, I will do my part and will help others do their part.
  2. I will keep in order the things which I use in my work. When things are out of place, they are often in the way, and sometimes they are hard to find. Disorder means confusion, and the waste of time and patience.
  3. In all my work with others, I will be cheerful. Cheerlessness depresses all the workers and injures all the work.
  4. When I have received money for my work, I will be neither a miser nor a spendthrift. I will save or spend as one of the friendly workers of America.

IX - The Law of Kindness

The Good American is Kind

In America those who are of different races, colors, and conditions must live together. We are of many different sorts, but we are one great people. Every unkindness hurts the common life, every kindness helps the common life. Therefore:

  1. I will be kind in all my thoughts. I will bear no spites or grudges. I will not think unkindly of any other girl or boy just because I am of a different race or color or condition. I will never despise anybody.
  2. I will be kind in all my speech. I will not gossip, nor will I speak unkindly of anyone. Words may wound or heal.
  3. I will be kind in all my acts. I will not selfishly insist on having my own way. I will always be polite. Rude people are not good Americans. I will not trouble unnecessarily those who do work for me. I will do my best to prevent cruelty, and will give my best help to those who need it most.

X - The Law of Loyalty

The Good American Is Loyal

If our America is to become ever greater and better, her citizens must be loyal, devotedly faithful, in every relation of life.

  1. I will be loyal to my family. In loyalty I will gladly obey my parents or those who are in their place. I will do my best to help each member of my family to strength and usefulness.
  2. I will be loyal to my school. In loyalty I will obey and help other pupils to obey those rules which further the good of all.
  3. I will be loyal to my town, my state, my country. In loyalty I will respect and help others to respect their laws and their courts of justice.
  4. I will be loyal to humanity. In loyalty I will do my best to help the friendly relations of our country with every other country, and to give to everyone in every land the best possible chance.

If I try simply to be loyal to my family, I may be disloyal to my school. If I try simply to be loyal to my school, I may be disloyal to my town, my state and my country. If I try simply to be loyal to my town, state and country, I may be disloyal to humanity. I will try above all things else to be loyal to humanity; then I shall surely be loyal to my country, my state and my town, to my school and to my family.

And he who obeys the law of loyalty obeys all of the other nine laws of The Good American.

If you like this, here is a pdf version.