Raise Children of Character
Raising children of character has never been more difficult. The pressures of dual wage earner families, expanded work hours and single parenting, the influence of mass media and the Internet, and so many other factors challenge the best of parents.
If you are a parent, you may have wondered what sort of adults your children will become. Will worthy principles and values drive their lives? Will they do the right things and make the right choices – even when the stakes are high or when no one is watching?
What can you and I do to enhance the chances that our children will be men and women of good character?
People are more successful in all areas of their lives, including parenting, if they know who they are and have found purpose and meaning in their lives. Understanding yourself and bringing out the best in yourself will help immensely in raising children of character.
What are the principles and values that drive your life? The real ones – the ones that you live out – not the ones you just talk about. If I asked some of your family members or friends to tell me the three top principles or values that drive your choices and behavior, what would they tell me? No matter what values you talk about with your children, the values you live out are the ones that your children will learn.
Give it some thought.
After working with parents and children for over 30 years, I have come to the conclusion that the most important factor in raising children of character is the relationship we have with them. There are tons books with all kinds of discipline techniques and problem-solving advice. Those things are helpful. But, the power of parental influence is in the relationship you have with your child.
If your child feels that s/he is deeply loved by you, then your character and what you value will be important to your child. Your child will be certain of your love when s/he feels:
• accepted unconditionally (even when being punished for misbehavior), and
• knows s/he is more important than anything else in your life.
You might get an idea of how close your relationship is by checking on how well you know your child. Ask yourself these questions and press yourself for details:
• What are your child’s preferred activities, favorite TV shows, favorite
subjects in school, favorite foods or clothes, favorite celebrity or musical group?
• How well do you know your child’s friends, what they do together, talk about,
fight over, have in common? What attracts your child to these children?
Do you know the children’s families? Does your child have a girlfriend or
boyfriend? How do they spend their time together?
• How is your child using the computer and internet? Is s/he on a social networking site?
• How well is your child doing with schoolwork and school behavior? What are
his or her best and worst subjects? Who are his or her teachers? How does
s/he get along with teachers and the children at school in general?
Well, what do you think? How close is your relationship?
If you want to raise children of character – despite all the challenges of our society – focus on things such as these:
• Model the values and virtues that you want to share with your child.
• Discuss how principles and values relate to current news stories, TV programs,
movies, or real-life events.
• When you see your child behaving in a way that reflects the values you want to
pass on, be sure to comment and reinforce the behavior.
• Involve your children in activities that express your values and principles.
• Get involved in your child’s life. Participate in activities that are important to
your child. Show interest.
• Talk with each other at times other than when you are giving directions,
reprimanding, etc. Spontaneous times are the best. LISTEN more than talk.
Answer questions patiently and thoroughly. Ask your child’s opinion on things.
Instead of always giving advice or solutions, facilitate your child’s thinking
through a problem and the principles or values that might point the way.
Tell your child “I love you” often – even if you were raised in a family that
never did that!
• Spend time together. Play together. Have fun together. Do it daily, weekly, as
often as you possibly can. It’s powerful stuff for building a relationship.
• Help children manage their emotions. When a child is experiencing feelings,
name the feeling for the child, accept and validate how the child is feeling,
but limit unacceptable behaviors.
• Provide situations where your child gains confidence and builds strengths.
• Set appropriate limits for the child’s behavior. Stick to “No” when necessary.
But, discipline with love. Offer reasons for your rules.
Let’s work hard to raise children of character. The world desperately needs men and women who live by worthy principles and values.
© Glen Rediehs, Ph.D.
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