Ethics teaches us what we should do, not what we do. We must treat others with kindness, compassion, respect, etc. In other words, an ethical person practices the application of virtues, the traits of our character, in making everyday decisions. Virtues are the positive character traits that inform our ethical being.
Ethics deals with rights, responsibilities, the use of language, what it means to live an ethical life, and the way in which people make moral decisions. We can think of moralization as an intellectual exercise, but more often it's an attempt to make sense of our gut instincts and reactions. It's a subjective concept, and many people have strong and stubborn beliefs about what's right and what's wrong that can put them in direct contrast to the moral beliefs of others. However, while morals can vary from person to person, from one religion to another, and from one culture to another, many have been found to be universal and are derived from basic human emotions.
Universal principles can include belief in democratic due process (fifth stage ethics), but also other principles, such as belief in the dignity of all human life or in the sacredness of the natural environment. When companies give back, not only do they contribute to the common good, but they also interact with their communities in a meaningful way, boost employee morale and generate positive regard for the company. If peers believe, for example, that it is morally good to behave politely with as many people as possible, the child is likely to agree with the group and consider courtesy not just as an arbitrary social convention, but as a moral “good”. Indeed, atheism does not undermine morality, but the atheistic conception of morality may differ from that of the traditional theist.
The idea of a moral code extends beyond the individual and includes what is determined to be right and wrong for a community or society in general. In this final stage, morally good action is based on personal principles that apply both to the person's immediate life and to the community and society in general. In this fairly common example, moral issues about fairness or justice, on the one hand, and about consideration or care, on the other, are embedded. If serving yourself a cookie causes affectionate smiles in adults, then eating the cookie is considered morally “good”.
As a group, programs are often referred to as character education, although individual programs have a variety of specific names (for example, education on moral dilemmas, inclusive ethical education, social competence education, and many more). This approach to moral beliefs is a little more stable than the Stage 2 approach, because the child takes into account the reactions of not just another person, but many. Paying attention to due process certainly seems to help avoid absurd conformity with conventional moral beliefs. Of course, parents and society in general can certainly encourage and develop morality and ethics in children.
A good example of this dichotomy is the religious conservative who thinks that women's right to their bodies is morally wrong.