While I try to leave my work at the office like most folks, I find myself at social functions engaging in conversations
with people who have a curiosity about my profession, once it's unwittingly revealed. By far and away, the
most common topic of discussion and query centers around parenting and all of its related struggles. Overall, I sense
(and share) a theme of concern about the future of our youth. Every generation of involved parents, teachers, and other role
models seems to experience this fear, and often compensates with overprotection.
How can we have the most positive
effect on the children we are chosen to influence? More than any other factor, the instilling of character molds kids into
the permanent adult roles they will assume in society. Obviously, the sooner we start, the greater the impact. And just how
can we do this in concrete terms that they can understand? Recently, I attended a lecture series entitled "Parenting", which
was conducted by a local family physician. In his talks, he outlined a blueprint for raising children, built upon a foundation
of character development that is rooted in both supernatural and cardinal virtues. I hope you find this abbreviated summary
to be of some value, though it doesn't serve justice to his elegant presentations on the subject.
Faith--in God Who gives life meaning and purpose in this
world and beyond
Hope--that God will guide us through life's adversities
Love--greater for God than
Prudence--sound judgement ("Look before you leap!")
responsibility and respect for the rights of others
Fortitude--personal toughness ("Anything we survive makes us stronger.")
and in closing...We lead best by example.
More on character...
What are the opposites of the above virtues?
Faith-------Faithlessness (belief only in man and his
laws, which change with the times)
Love--------Egoism (There are many opposites to love, but this
trait is specifically opposite to love for others, without which there would have been no rescuers of survivors after the
terrorist attacks of the World Trade Center and Pentagon)
Prudence----Immature judgement (easily influenced by others)
You'll notice that all of
the above vices, with the exception of despair, describe a typical 2 year old. So children aren't born perfect, contrary to
popular myth; and therefore require continuous shaping of character during development in order to overcome their natural
What are the impediments to building character today?
1) Children aren't needed anymore--In an
agrarian society, kids learned these virtues early, because they were called upon at a young age to contribute to the family's
survival. While most of us don't have "cows to milk" in our backyards, our children need to be given a broad range of responsibilities
that exemplify the character we want them to develop.
2) Parents aren't available--Because of divorce, single parent or
2 working parent households, children are not exposed as much to their parents to learn from them. And what contact they have
is typically of a leisurely nature; e.g. watching TV with mom or dad after work.
3) Entertainers have replaced heroes--Try
a little experiment with your children, and ask them, "Who are your heroes?". You may be surprised, if not shocked, by some
of their responses, which are largely influenced by the entertainment industry (rather than biographies of great people, available
in every public library).
4) Television--Without my pontificating too much on its evils, we can all agree that at a very
minimum, it replaces conversation, which is vital in developing healthy relationships with our children and learning about
their lives apart from home...
The list goes on and on, and represents natural manifestations of society today. Therefore,
we parents need to make conscious and planned efforts to engage ourselves and our children in other ways that are conducive
to character development. For starters, remember the old-fashioned tradition of a family supper? In this day of fast-food
restaurants and everyone living on different schedules, it's become practically obsolete, though sorely missed as an excellent
opportunity to bring families together for ongoing bonding. Speaking for myself, it's usually the best 30 to 45 minutes per
day that I can spend with my kids.