“Ewww, that’s gross!”
Every time your child says that, it is a reassurance that he’s gonna be all right — unless you interfere with that aspect of his development. Like the woman at a coffee shop, whom I overheard saying: “I encourage openness to different cultures, ideas, and sexuality when it comes to raising my daughter.”
Something I understand as a father is that non-interference plays as much a role in child-raising as does positive action. Parents who buy into the neoliberal value of uncritical tolerance and push it on their children’s developing judgment — in spite of the child’s natural discomfort — are crippling the child’s moral auto-immune system.
Disgust is the pre-rational seed for a human being’s development of his sense of right and wrong. It is literally visceral; “from the gut” or “gut feeling” are not metaphors. Taboos, for example, come from our pre-rational aversion to things we consider unclean or disturbing: human waste matter, incest and homosexuality, female promiscuity (and male promiscuity to a lesser extent), miscegenation, extreme obesity, snakes and bugs, along with a host of Uncanny Valley aversions such as wariness of foreigners.
As we grow up, that visceral prejudice becomes a foundation for our morality and judgment. And on a higher cognitive level, disgust transforms into an aversion to more abstract evils such as lies and disloyalty.
When a child becomes a teenager, he will not resist siren-songs by reasoning things out to first-causes because a thirteen-year-old is not a philosopher. He also isn’t an automaton, so he won’t turn his back on evil just because his parents told him to. Rather, when he comes to a fork in the road and something feels off, all he’s got is his gut feeling.
He will be more sure to make the right choice in a dilemma if he trusts his instincts. And years later, even if that boy does grow up to be a philosopher, disgust will still serve him as an infallible guide.