When parents are asked what characteristics they would like their children to possess, parents give consistent answers. They routinely state that they would like to raise children that are honest, cooperative, responsible, kind, etc. One rarely finds a parent who would like their children to grow into adults who are be obsessed with money, are isolationist, and are self-centered, smart, or competitive.
It appears as if we as parents intuitively recognize that unless our children obtain traits that help them to function as an empathetic member of a group that true happiness will not be theirs.
So what are the characteristics that make for a happy and productive individual and how does a person obtain these characteristics? Let me propose what I feel are the characteristics we need to nurture in our children so they can function as stable individuals in an unstable world.
∑ Faith is first on my list. This may seem like an abstract idea that is not important. To some it may even seem to be a religious idea that has no place in a discussion of personality traits. But let me suggest that without faith that the sun will rise tomorrow, or that your parents can be counted on, or that no problem is too hard to solve there is a tendency to give up. Thomas Carlyle spent two years composing Volume 1 of his book The History of the French Revolution only to have his only manuscript accidentally put in the fireplace by a thoughtless servant. With all of his resources depleted he started over again because he had faith in his dream and his ability to accomplish his dream no matter what the obstacles.
∑ Love is second on the list. This again may seem like a whimsical trait that is relegated to the weak. But let me suggest that unless you can truly learn to love even the despots of this world that fear or hatred control your actions and mold you into a miserable individual unable to control your own destiny. Love is not an act of weakness it is an act of courage. When you love you lower the protective wall that shields forming close relationships with others. Whey you choose to love you become vulnerable to the pain others may choose to inflict upon you. When you choose to love other human being, just as they are, you allow the true joy that comes from celebrating the successes of others to permeate your being and discover the warmth that comes only from living a selfless life.
∑ Peace is third on the list. Peace is a hard attribute to obtain in this world of confusion and selfishness. But without peace life is merely and existence from moment to moment and can never be truly savored and enjoyed. Peace seems to be a byproduct of faith and love and comes when one is aware that life has purpose and meaning. Perhaps it is faith in a plan that extends beyond this existence that provides the foundation for peace. But perhaps it comes from the calm assurance that we do not have control of the world outside our skin. If we persist we can learn that fear and worry only destroy the moment without adding anything to the present. If everything is ok right now why worry about the past, which I cannot change, and why worry about future events, which I have not control over and which I can do nothing about.
∑ Hope is fourth on the list. Hope seems to be the foundation of all accomplishments. If I do not feel that I am going to be around to complete a specific project, why try. It is hopelessness that stops individuals from even attempting simple or complex tasks. If I feel it is hopeless to do the dishes because there will just be dirty dishes tomorrow why do them? If I feel that carving a Mt. Rushmore is an impossible task why start? Hope, goals, dreams, desires, all come from the same source. If we look at a bumble bee with his tiny wings we could conclude that is impossible for him to fly. The bumble bee does know that. It just flies in spite of the seemingly impossibility. Hope allows an individual to continue, to persevere, to try rather then give up.
∑ Joy is last on the list of traits I would like to see my child develop. If life is not fun, if nothing I do is enjoyed, if all is duty and drudgery then life is to be endured not savored. But when I state that I want my child to be a joyful person I do not mean a person addicted to selfish pleasure. Nor do I mean alternative life styles that are suppose to bring happiness. Alternative life styles flaunt the teaching of the ages, reason, religious teaching, and do not lay the foundation for real joy. Alternative life styles are really Alternative Death Styles. What I mean is the warm feeling that floods the body when you know that your course in life is meaningful and in tune with nature, God, the universe, and your fellow man.
To obtain these characteristics we use tools that are many times seen to be ends in themselves but which are meaningless unless they result in individuals who possess the above stated characteristics. These tools are as follows:
∑ Providing your child with knowledge empowers you child. Knowledge is a tool that you can use to help him or her develop the characteristics listed. Knowledge is a tool that a child can use to help others grow and develop. (This really is the only reason to seek knowledge.)
∑ Requiring obedience is a technique that will enable your child to obtain the above characteristics. Only when children learn that the world is predictable can they develop the characteristic of faith and live in a condition of inner peace. When a child learns to be obedient to parents and then later to his or her internal moral code then order and peace follow.
∑ Helping our child to endure all trials, challenges, and situations teaches disciple and fosters hope. When our child recognizes that we expect endurance on their part they understand that we have faith in them and will develop faith in themselves.
∑ Another thing to provide your child with is insight. Although knowledge, obedience, and endurance are important, if one does not have an understanding of relationships, organization, purpose, necessity, and mechanics of the world one is part of then developing faith, love, peace, hope, and joy becomes difficult. The alternative to insight is a life of blind obedience or blind selfishness either of which produce a life of unhappiness.
From my point of view, the life I would wish for my child or any human being is a life filled with meaning and purpose. When an individual concludes that life is not and existence but a gift to be savored and enjoyed then he or she can use knowledge, discipline, endurance, and insight to obtain the characteristics of faith, love, peace, hope, and true joy. These characteristics prepare us to live life to itís fullest here and to live so that a heavenly existence will not be something unfamiliar but something we prepared for here.